The End of Hyperion

The End of Hyperion  Ballad Form Narrative (Creative Writing BA: 2007)


It was somewhere above the Atlantic

Their entanglement first began.

He was old, she was young, she was dreaming

Mortal dreams of a much older man.

‘My name’s Annie. I live in Manhattan.

I write lyrics and marketing rhyme,’

She sighed in her sleep. He moved closer,

Touched her pink lips that one fatal time:

‘Do you ask me, now, what should you call me

And what errand of fate brings me here?

Well, sit close, pretty poet, beside me

And I’ll whisper my names in your ear.’


‘I was plague in the time of the pharaohs,

I ferried the Boy King away,

And in underground rooms I left mummies in tombs

Concealing my spinal decay.’

He paused to consider her breathing,

Perceived changes, still slight but secure.

‘In Athens my waste was called phthisis,

Which Hippocrates never could cure.

For a time I spawned children and waited,

Whilst the tribes in the north became tame,

Took their lives and was re-christened Vampire

As their loved ones all suffered the same.

Well, I sailed with the merchants to England,

To the homes of the new urban poor.

With industrialization, its filth and privation,

My takings achieved one in four.

Oh, I gathered up poets and writers:

All the Brontes, Shelly and Poe,

Miss Austen, John Keats and Sir Walter

And some others you never will now.’


‘Then a setback befell me in Europe;

I lost many a poet to war.

But though cannon were needy and the trenches were greedy

My silent efforts won more.

The Physicians now called me Consumption:

An appropriate name to be sure,

For it told how I nurtured my writers

And the hardship I bid them endure.

Well, I gathered up Kafka and Lawrence,

I plucked Orwell away from his fate,

But the cursed streptomycin pursued me

So I crept to my corner to wait.

I am wise, I had time to consider.’

He watched her sweet breast rise and fall.

‘Then the men in white coats mumbled quietly

And I knew I was not beat at all.

They whispered bacterial resistance,

Transduction’s the name of the game.

Being kindly disposed to both poetry and prose,

Mycobacter’s my family name!’


She stirred as the cabin lights flickered,

She stroked a loose lock from her cheek,

She continued to sleep, he continued to keep

His cold watch as her future grew bleak.

He stroked her soft curls and she murmured

He held his grey hand on her brow

And the wisdom of Ages informed him

That her verses were his verses now.

‘Pretty girl, your companions are waiting;

Where they are they compose just for me.

There the fruits of their labours unwritten

Tower high for nobody to see.

Some call me tuberculosis,

Though TB is my popular name.

I have missed four decades, but now clean up with AIDS,

Which is blamed for the victims I claim.’

And the seat at her side became empty

As he gently wished her good day

She turned in her dreams and breathed deeply.

Cleared her throat as he drifted away.


In his library, beyond expectation,

Lies beauty that never was penned.

When she woke in her hand was a parchment

Revealing Hyperion’s End.

© Jean Levy/2007


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