I am the many-headed man;
Beware my reach. I span
The globe, or at least
My own round beast.

I plug the ground,
Medusa’s pit,
My monster bound,
My gargoyles lit.

Devils wake me
With their breeze;
I dream of snakes
And mysteries.

Sweating, squat,
And badly cast,
Homesick, hot,
I have to ask:

Single, Pisces,
Looks to hire
All your crises.

I fear heroes,
Cars, and lights,
Like all lachrymose,
Sad troglodytes.

Rain my hair,
And wet my fire;
I limbo air,
I douse desire.

Of scarecrow hoses
That on me fit.

Within my cysts
The myth of blame:
My cobra twists
Inside the flame.

Between the nodes
Where Gorgons writhe,
Demon codes
Scream and scythe;

Inside my skull
The human husk,
The sunken hull,
The squirming dusk:

I crave your shells,
Your reptile coils,
To coat my hells
With godlike oils.

Who am I, to plug
And stop a day like this?
I am the hole God dug
So luminous:

Wind of water,
Water’s gust,
Wand of fire,
Fire’s dust;

Vein of oceans, ocean’s vent,
Mound of Hades, Hades bent,

The planet’s soul, the passion’s beak,
The body’s drain, and nature’s freak.


Fire hydrants were named after a cave-dwelling mythologic monster, the Hydra, described by Robert Graves in The Complete Myths.

The acts of gods are euhemeristic; that is, they are coded histories of humanity, a euphemism for unpalatable deeds too horrible for history.

As the play Hamnet was in fact a code book for operating Stonehenge, as described in Hamlet’s Mill (1969) by Hertha von Dechend, assembled by Giorgio de Santillana.

Like a hydrant, the Hydra was a water snake with many heads. Heracles killed it by fusing its wounds with its opposite, fire, so it would not, chameleon-like, grow more heads.

The myth, Graves notes, was a rephrasing of the ongoing slaughter of the priestesses of Demeter, who were getting drunk and murdering townspeople. Like the springs in the delta of Lerna, the more you sealed them up, the more they sprung up elsewhere. Searing the land helped dry up the springs, while simultaneously trapping the Maenads in the caves.

So I felt that the mind of a Hydra would be that of a party girl, horrified by light and yet drawn to flames. Now that the poem is finished, I can talk about it.

I started with the first stanza, which I wrote down on July 7th, 2003, on the top floor of a Marriott in La Jolla, where I had just written “Terminus,” also in this volume. See its note as well. The first stanza’s draft is on the cover of Volume 1, Sea Sun. The idea was that modern multitasking man believes himself a god, when in fact he is not even in control of his weight. He wears as many caps as the Hydra has heads, but not stylishly.

The initial inspiration was over when we checked out of the hotel. I remember writing the first stanza as our bags left the room. For almost two years, I had no idea what came next. I read up on the monster, looking for clues, which only led to dead ends. A Lerna-like quest.

Finally, on April 11th, 2005, at dinner alone in Paris, at Montparnasse 25, a line popped into my head. What I wrote that night, under the influence of a seductive Volnay, was somewhat Gothic, but the emotion had returned, and the next day I spent eight hours finishing the poem.

When I lost my memory from Lyme disease, no matter how hard I practiced at the piano, I couldn’t understand how one note came after another, or how to hold such a mystery in my head. I retaught myself harmony, whose labyrinthine Lerna synapses moved too slowly, however, for the necessary rhythm. Eventually I recovered. But for a while I had the same sense of futility as I do in trying to force poetry out of ideas. Poetry, at least in my case, comes from nothing rational or structured. Learning its alphabet is not enough.

The Mysteries of Demeter were in fact the alphabet. Writing was closely guarded by its inventors, who scrambled the letters and passed them around in initiation ceremonies. The Cadmean code is what has come down to us. So the Mysteries morphed into the words you hold in your hand, reading.

The Gorgon mask of Medusa’s face that Hermes wears scares outsiders away from the secret of the Mysteries, which he carries with him.

The sword Heracles used to kill the Hydra was the golden falchion, the new-moon sickle or scythe.

Lerna, where the Hydra lived, was where Persephone returned from hell, bearing the spring. So there is redemption in the neighborhood.

Graves mentions that one must never mention the Furies by name. It is they who dog the insolent.

“Hydra” is a picture of how poets might see themselves as outdated monstrosities, if dates had anything to do with worth. Freud said we see ourselves as others see us. I would say that mirrors seem to be mostly in the hands of witches.