Purchase Issue 7

Purchase Issue 7


Alexandra Teague

In the Glass Labyrinth at the Nelson Atkins Art Museum, the Rough Beast is Mistaken for the Minotaur

As if art is enough to unmake the inevitable;
            as if a beast can enter, at will, any myth’s
clear walls: as if each labyrinth promises anything
            but a nest for the egg of the self you’ve already
hatched. As if Plutarch didn’t get there first. As if Paul Simon
            didn’t get there after, “Mother and Child Reunion”
rhythming away on The Beast’s earbuds, and the walls
winding one way in, which is the same way back,
which is maybe what Aristotle meant by “infinite sequence”
            or Simon by “a motion away,” which is where his face is
each time he looks for it: reflected in the lawns’ reflection just
ahead, like that joke on the Jungle Cruise (where a kid
called him “wildebeest”) where the pygmy waves a shrunken head,
            and the guide cries, “What’s that up there in the river
a-head?” Funny-not-funny mother of all mythologies:
            that the future will mirror the name we call it. The glass
windexed so clear even here it looks like air he almost birds
head-first into as the kid says “Look,” gesturing finger-
horns like it’s a zoo; like in this real labyrinth, you’d need
            a string. Though it’s not the kid’s fault the language of
myths got tangled so far back there is no unicursal path now:
            the past as uncertain as the future, as Diderot said.
Or as the Beast wants to say, “No, kid, I’m Superman,”
miming bird-plane arms, though the corridors are
too narrow for wings or explanations like, I’m walking toward
which could as well mean away from Bethlehem
and back,
or I’m walking until the end, which never comes,
no single shell-crack, but more world sputtering on
in frying pans and oiled reggae licks and Chinese menus and
squat bronze Henry Moores and gum-cheeked kids
pasting their faces to glass like aquarium fish, all of it
roped together in some great paradox science
explains now as mutation—a chicken hatches from an egg
of another bird, and they both came first: what’s that
a-head? The future! One beast or another—
like the chalazae, suspending what will be and
the strange what-is, roping yolk to white to shell.

Read Diana Alexandra Teague’s “In the Glass Labyrinth at the Nelson Atkins Art Museum, the Rough Beast is Mistaken for the Minotaur” in the print edition of The Arkansas International 7.



Alexandra Teague is the author of Or What We’ll Call Desire (Persea, 2019), The Wise and Foolish Builders, and Mortal Geography, and the novel The Principles Behind Flotation. She is also co-editor of Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. A former Stegner and NEA Fellow, Alexandra teaches in the MFA program at University of Idaho and is currently on sabbatical in Wales.