Ann Rayburn


"Cup of Death" by Elihu Vedder, National Gallery of American Art
(Illustration for The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam)

So when the Angel of the darker Drink
at last shall find you by the river-brink
. . . you shall not shrink.

We’re not enchanted by the cup he holds,
nor by his heavy robe, his cowled head.
Not lured by rocks, their rough descending stairway
into gloaming trees that shudder, dark with sleep.

But see the way the artist, Vedder, has him bend
his arm, curve it to the woman’s waist. See how
his downcast eyes anticipate the path for her,
caution married to his urgency.

Their bodies lead us to a half-swooned Yes
as she leans into him, and we sigh
Yes to her shuttered gaze, to her hands
already pale blue, as blood withdraws.

His deep wings dwarf them both, shield them
from watching eyes. Gestures cannot tell us more.
Their passage pulls the painted moon above them
downward. It will soon be swallowed by a cloud.

Ann Rayburn began writing poems when she was very young, growing up in California. She was accepted as an undergraduate to the Creative Writing Program at Stanford, and then took off many years to raise her family and establish a profession. She resumed writing poetry after her sons were grown. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Passager, Minimus, and WordWrights. She has recently retired from private practice as a psychotherapist, and she now gardens and writes in Falls Church, VA.


Published in Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 2009.