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Fickle Muses an online journal of myth and legend

Clothesline 1 by Annie Dawid
Clothesline 1
by Annie Dawid

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Two poems by Jeanne Wagner

Medusa’s Version

The second they saw his face,
they started to hiss and rattle,
silly kids in a ruckus
of desire. 

Their bodies rose up and waved
like sea grass:
that same anchored turbulence,
that grace.

It’s dangerous to stick around
when a man confronts
his fears.

He cut them off at the follicles. 
He sealed the roots
with fire.

The story goes,
I saw myself and died
of fright;

the truth is, it was years
before I learned
how to miss them.

Until then,
I was just another girl
with a hair cut,
prinking in the mirror.


Penelope’s Song

At first I was furtive,
unraveling only at night,
and only by the light of a single oil lamp,
whose mauve shadows
swooned over the surface of the weave,
an affect I only later learned to make,
a secret between myself
and the shuttle’s slow deliberate slide
across the frame.

And who’s to know the shame I felt,
as if each new row I wove
were a promise I would break,
every ripping out a lie in reverse. 
My sins, and they were sins,
were sins of erasure,
of abstaining from whole cloth,
and worse, sins of pleasure too:

the feel of a loosened strand,
juddering across the hem,
the way the weft raised itself up lewdly
like a lifted dressing gown.
Sometimes I think the loom looked better
bereft of thread. 

The truth is, not long after he left,
the suitors became fewer,
came only to pass the time,
to trade their embellished tales
of hardship and renown,
not to watch a woman weave
unepic tapestry
in the corner of a room.

The day Odysseus came home to Ithaca,
I swore I’d put away my task,
my journeyman’s loom,
but save that long crimped
strand of thread,
so that when he finally took me to his bed,
I could dream of all those nights
of surreptitious longing.

Just as he would dream of the sea,
the soft tongues of the waves
licking the sides of the hull,
a rope looped tight around his chest,
the Sirens’ call.

“Penolope’s Song” was previously published in The Ledge, #29, Fall 2006.