4 questions

word count: 55

How can something as dainty as a rhyme
stretch to accommodate a paradigm?

How could stone slabs, slowly inscribed by hand,
carry the weight of 10 divine commands?

How did the founding fathers—all mere men—
give birth to a nation with a pen?

How do hearts split apart by loneliness
let themselves be vulnerable again?

the empress’ new clothes

word count: 97

creative con artists convinced the queen
their smartest garments could only be seen
by smart people—a bold, transparent lie,
which no one had the balls to take the
fall for unraveling, until a kid
who didn’t think much of authority
said, “hi, your highness! would you tell me why
you give this generously to the eye
while leaving nothing to imagination?”

derailed, the empress looked out at the throngs
around her throne, wondering how much longer
they’d’ve let her be dead wrong
& to the men’s predictable dismay
went back to wearing real clothes that same day.

Arachne

word count: 104

before we had spiders, a girl at a loom
stood weaving, unknowing, her 8-legged doom.
the pride of her village, her spinning fingers
flew left & right deftly—then, arrogantly,
she challenged Heaven, feeling thirsty to see
how close she’d come to immortality.

gliding to earth, elegant as a swan,
Athena touched toes to dirt & said, “game on.”

all subjects were fair game, however obscene,
provided the work was the best ever seen;
so serenely, the girl wove an orgy-like scene.

side by side with Athena’s pristine tapestry,
the girl’s was no worse—but, for her blasphemy,
she now dwells on a web & kills passively.

phoenix

word count: 107

in the shade under the Knowledge tree
lives a phoenix by the name of Poetry.
times change the shape & pigment of her wings,
how long her beak is & what songs she sings,
but, sure as the moon follows herself in rings,
the phoenix flies, dies & again revives.

when in the cooling coals her scarlet egg
shivers awake, born on its own deathbed,
she’s unmistakable—swallow or swan,
dove, falcon, owl or vulture, her eyes glow
with a long-lived fever; that’s how you know
she lives on—new, though she was never gone.

there’s no illusion here, no mystery;
this phoenix lives for all who want to see.

2 different women

word count: 87

2 different women live in my soul:
one is idyllically domestic
in her pale yellow apron-wearing role;
the 2nd holds down a fantastic
leading ladylike profession, respected
everywhere she goes—both unrealistic,
one a little closer to home.
they both channel their Qi like pros,
creative, sure of themselves & kind—
of course, neither of their 2 souls is mine.
i’m in the middle, where they’re combined
& only the intention of each shines.
one warms the heart, the other cools the head,
& you, love, keep the two from being dead.

woman is immortal

word count: 85

woman is immortal. this sometimes frees
me to think of things besides mortality
& blind insemination—times like these
demand enlightenment, illumination
& a compassionate philosophy,
i think. “cerebral female”
might be oxymoronic (i’m certain
i’m not sure) but, like it or not, i got
an education rivaling royalty;
so, what do i do now? i confess
the deep confusion infusing my core
& that i don’t see the future moving forward
without using the fuel stored up before
in primal lore passed down from days of yore.

prayer to Athena

word count: 93

wisdom incarnate! God of craftsmanship,
adviser of kings—come to earth!
materialize as the larger-than-life Alpha Female
you are, Athena, i know you’re aching
to stretch those strong legs—come walk
hand in hand with every leader of my troubled,
fast-paced age—please, Athena, born
of the thundering cranium of Zeus,
rise in your golden armor like the Sun
& bring enlightenment to everyone!
reveal the great rewards that can be won
when men are all loved like brothers & sons!
be the mother of invention & art
& set the pulse of mankind with your heart.

Pandora

word count: 245

Pandora, the First Woman before Eve,
was released into a world of all men
with her ruby lips sculpted by the gods
& other endowments, mostly hidden—
sweet speech, easy to believe; a feel for
lullabies and healing broth; gentle
breath; she was delivered naked with
a sealed glass jar she was never to
open, clear as air but heavier than stone.

The men questioned nothing. The same
day they laid eyes on Pandora, she was
destined to be possessed by the one
who won her; so, riches poured out
of the earth and piled up at her feet;
men sang, danced and built machines
to provide her endless stream of joy—but still
by night, the strange glass keepsake called,
and weak from her sheltered life, Pandora peeked.

A torrential force exploded out, tore up
the roof and screeched through the air
with a caustic cry while, desperate, Pandora
pushed the lid against the flow
to get it close enough to
latch it closed—
but by the time she could, the jar stood
on the table, indistinguishable from any other.

The world was the thing that changed:
sickness, deceit and bloodthirst burned
men’s souls like acid; plagued by fear,
they squandered their strength on
vicious tests of power and justified it all
by woman, the measure of their hours.

Too sane to look inside the jar again,
Pandora never found out what stayed: hope,
the last of the great powers she
had all but released.

Medusa

word count: 284

Poseidon, Lord of the Seven Seas,
stormed ashore boiling with lust into
the temple where she was worshipping
him & his massive suffocating
body poured pushed pounded &
consumed her; his roar deafening,
she couldn’t hear but she could feel him
forcing out her screams.

What he left of her lay deathlike on
the floor for a long time, listening
quietly to the ebbing tide.

When she rose (alive, but not like before) her scalp was pulling against
itself, restless skin twisting, hissing
in her ears—
                    alone, terrified, she spat
venom & clawed at the teeming mass of
snakes that had replaced her hair!

                                   her invaded flesh
embodied her distress so deeply that
from then on, whoever met her eyes
became a petrified stone statue.
Even birds dropped mid-flight, paralyzed by the sight.

In misery & shame, Medusa hid away,
surrounded by the statues she had made
till a hero came to count her death toll paid.

He chased her through her cave, using his
shining shield to mirror around blind
corners—hunted like his prey, she stayed
in shadow, praying, stalemate!

At last, in a moment of unspoken truce,
the killer commanded: “Show me your back.”

What did she have to lose?

Facing the wall, she let the torchlight
fall on her gentle curves. Then, dangling
to her waist with their whispering faces
swaying
                the slenderly cascading snakes
transfixed the tired soldier by surprise.

Timidly, the female monster offered,
“Sheath your sword. Close your eyes.”

For some reason, the man obeyed, unafraid
as her footsteps & forked tongues came
close, lapping the air moist with his sweat—
then, all at once, his bare shoulders caressed
by her nuzzling heads, her warm
breasts heavy in his hands, the monster
was conquered.