If that driver learns the answer, she said,
He's no further ahead. Still, go on.
These swans were human women, transformed,
And not just any women, not strangers,
But Queen Jocasta and little Antigone.
Just why the two went about as swans
Was never quite made clear to Oedipus,
Nor did corpse, on this point, speculate.
The major problem, though, he said , was this.
Mother had the small feet, daughter the big.
So father raped daughter, brother mother.
Nine months later two infants were born.
Eggs, said Marguerite. Swans lay eggs.
We who wear birdshape don't take pretense
Farther than God or tight costumes permit.
The witchcraft here proved transitory.
The two, women again, both bore sons.
There's much to this addled riddle, bird,
That will not bear up under scrutiny.
The riddle, then, Jonah, was stated thus:
What name does the relationship bear
Between those two children, each to each,
And which, should King die, becomes crown prince?
Isn't it best, driver, never to know?
Of course. But even so, the question nags.
Okay, then, I said. The answer's this...
The corpse twitched and gave a hideous shriek,
And the driver shouted, quick, grab the knife.
No. Wait. No, that's not it, I said.
I almost had it there, but now it's gone.
They were second cousins? guessed Marguerite,
But once removed and then twice put back?
Listen, oh Jonah, the driver then said
As that corpse sank down, lifeless again.
My needle's fallen well below the E.
All those extra trips used up gas
And ate up a profit I'd counted on.
It's only right that you pay for this ride.
And that, of two reasons, is number two.
You're very good at riddles, kind driver,
Too good, yes, ever to profit much.
Do men you find naked beside the road,
Men beaten so badly they can't walk,
Ever carry around with them much cash?
I carry, sir, not even coupons
To save bucks on airport rental cars.
The driver braked, snarled, Jonah - get out!
Which one of us, I said, do you mean?
But shoved open rear door and jumped out.
I left before he thought to calculate
What he might fetch, what bounty might be paid,
If two dead Jonahs, not one, arrived.
I jumped out before he could realize,
Should some solution to that last riddle
Suddenly pop into his puzzled mind,
A back-up corpse might well prove its worth.
Did you think, jumping, to thank Ig-Galla?
I thanked no deity, not that one,
And not Godhead, who inhabits them all.
Liber Jonae Contents