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obsidian | a poem based on "Cleopatra" by The Lumineers

May 27, 2020



i. obsidian is the color of death. gowns of ebony, coils of raven; draped like curtains to skin. 
maybe if you clench the crimson veins of your knuckles and scrunch your brows 
you can dissipate into phosporus & oxygen & helium beneath the calamity creases of
your dress, streak broken scintillas through the cerulean atmosphere and frisk into the rain.
but the hushed voices & solemn words sweep harsh strokes into reality, wisping gray songs 
& wilted petals as aunts you forgot existed brush the blotches of your cheeks,
perfume ruins of rancid baby powder & fermented cabbage. 

ii. when he asks you, takes your hand, you can't answer. the pain is too, too deep;
spilling the contents of your soul onto linoleum, obsidian fabric peeling the chapped 
flakes of your limbs. this, you think, is how Cleopatra must've felt.
but his footprints ravel out the door when you cease to say words, 
mud stained to the carpet, feet running & running & running & running & running till he's gone. 
you never wash the floor again.

iii. vinyl seats and mustard doors coat your days. you try to forget him, 
forget the answer hanging mid-air, dirt soaked into alabaster, but you can't.
you try to forget the obsidian pain, could it have been dulled? what if you said yes?
every turn, cars jam-packed on charcoal roads, every stop, you see his face.
the strangers in my back seat, you think, words flowing like lava through the crevices
of your cracked skull, remind me of you.

iv. years pass and stoplights pour red, red light and still you drive.
thoughts pulse through your head and bloom into dandelions,
sprouting up when you don't want them to, shelling obsidian through your mind.
the only gifts from my lord
were birth and a divorce,

but i read this script and the costume fits,
so i'll play my part.

v. you are older now, antiseptic coating through stale halls,
obsidian pulsing in halos round your head. death looms like a flickering 
candle. maybe if you said yes you'd be smiling and tilting back in a 
hickory rocking chair, his hand in yours as tulips sliver through the
soupy earth. but there is a fire burning in your veins,
a fire of what-ifs and could've-beens, torching lost ecstasy frigid.
yet, melodies soothe the beating.

 i won't be late for this, late for that, late for the love of my life.
and when i die alone, when i die alone, when i die i'll be on time. 

I've been intrigued by the Lumineers songwriting for years now, and recently I decided to research the meaning behind one of my favorite songs that they wrote: Cleopatra. I discovered that the song was based off a taxi driver who lived in the Republic of Georgia that the lead singer, Wesley Schultz, knew. In an interview, he says the lyrics described the life of the taxi driver. According to Schultz, she -- the taxi driver -- fell in love, but her father passed away soon after. Following her father's death, the love of her life asked for her hand in marriage, however, she was still distraught over the incident and gave no answer. In response, the man left her. The song Cleopatra revolves around the taxi driver and her thoughts after the man left and uses the story of Cleopatra, or "the last queen of Egypt" to relate metaphorically.
Considering that I was so intrigued by the songwriting and story, I decided to write a poem that told the story of the song Cleopatra in a slightly different way. I used some personal past experiences to help describe events throughout as well as the lyrics, and I separated it into stanzas based on different "sections" of the songs. I also used some of The Lumineers specific lyrics, those you will find italicized.

Here is the link to the song:


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  • May 27, 2020 - 8:45pm (Now Viewing)

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  • delete

    Wowza! You’ve worked so hard on writing this descriptive and detailed poem about the song ‘Cleopatra’. You have such a talent for poetry and I especially love the imagery of the colour of obsidian- sort of a black shade- to convey the dark mood of the poem. I kind of get the feeling of Antony and Cleopatra, the feeling of betrayal. Good job!

    5 months ago
  • The Midnight One

    My goodness... What a wonderful piece! I love this song and your interpretation and poetry is incredible, I love the imagery!

    Also love how you've spread some of the lyrics throughout.

    5 months ago
  • sunny.v

    geez louise, this is gorgeous. i usually don’t give song pieces a listen to the song, but your diction is just incredible. not once does your word choice stray away from anything short of gorgeous?? i’m in love with this piece? “ you are older now, antiseptic coating through stale halls/ obsidian pulsing in halos round your head. death looms like a flickering / candle” i nearly cried by the end of reading this. always such a pleasure to read your writing
    (ps soccer players unite!!! <3 thank you)

    5 months ago
  • Two Heartbeats

    This is actually amazing. Cleopatra is my second favorite lumineers song, next to stubborn love but these ties and this thought process is so beautiful. ii. is amazing and really touched me.

    5 months ago