The Riddle of the Sphynx

by Christine Adams Beckett

The vessel, the animator,

Serves Man

As survivalist:

Hunting, gathering

Beating the odds of never reaching


Darwinian traits have sustained

The fittest, the strongest

Leaving Modern Man a much greater chance

At achieving three-legged status.

He lives inside his head

Learning to honor the fleshy medium

With sanctity and honor.

No longer burdened with rudimentary tasks

Of simply staying warm enough

To live to see Spring, he carries

Kettle bells, tricking his

Neuro-muscular system into thinking

They are buckets of milk

To nourish his children.

While still on two feet, he will

Strengthen his arms enough to earn

Love from his burdened wife,

Prolong his two-legged status

And trick the sphinx into


Our fathers were unable to achieve emotional

Two-legged status.  In fighting the Winter

They protected their hearts against

Inevitable loss, ignorant suffering.

Their children are recognizing that each generation

Is one more removed from four legs,

Basking in Spring’s warmth,

With the luxury of idle time

In a car, on a train, far away

From making their own shelter,

Growing their own food,

Long enough to look up

And recognize their brothers that

Clutch the dangling straps around them.

They rock with motion

And dream of emotional detachment

Understanding the static nature of

Being, loving without condition.

One father blurts endearments to

No one in particular, everyone in attendance

Because he can.  Another waits until

Three legs can no longer carry him.

A third just thanks a son for his love

Waiting until his memory imparts

The most useful of his expression:

“I did not learn it as well as you will.

Live in your heart and head

And you will outwit the Sphynx.”