The Worker, Sisyphus

.
It’s not so much the repetitive
rolling of the rock;
its hard weight against my skin
—we all bear our constant runningsisyphus

It’s not the sweat or muscles
burning in my calves,
my flaming gastrocnemius
my toasted soleus
—father Adam was told this was coming

It’s not so much my wrenched shoulders,
lacerated knees, abraded hands
or the endless throbbing of ankles
sprained by their turning again and again
in the small ruts beneath the rock
as I inch it up
—it’s all in a day’s work, as they say 

It’s not the back spasms
that seize up sometimes
like a stubborn mind
—such things are par for the course
in this tearful vale

It’s not the danger of its rolling back
to flatten me under its planetary mass;
it’s not the threatening heft of the thing
as I urge it up the incline
—we all live under an axe

It’s not the wasted time
the eternal leisure lost
the laceration of days
the spent eternity
—eternities come and go

It’s not the abjectness of my condition
—humiliation is only the next-to-worst thing
to bear

It’s not what it means to have such
intimacy with my stone;
to know its subtle veining,
its lumps and concavities, its tiny fissures,
it’s imperfect roundness, all of which
I see, blurred, through rivulets of perspiration
—I’ve had plenty of time to get to know it well

And size is not the problem
Immensity does not scare me
—even what’s huge can be overcome by tenacity

What rips my soul is the instant in which
this stone, at the precise moment of bitter success,
tumbles like one of Hannibal’s elephants
from an alpine precipice to lodge always but
momentarily in chronic doldrums
until, restless, I must roll again

What hurts is
the futility of my endeavor,
futility. 

Futility is
impossible to bear,
futility
and the depths of ever

—not to mention that this was
put on me by a surly god
who pulls my strings
and yanks my levers
.    

by Jim Culleny, 6/9/2010

Photo of sculpture by Robert Markey

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