Had I but known when I saw the god approaching!
His horses pulled him briskly over the water
as on dry land, wreathed in seaweed, dripping,
his chariot shone gold in the warm summer.
I stood as he walked– the old man– up from the shore.
He climbed the temple stairs. He praised my grace.
I had never seen a god before.
He seized and raped me before Athena’s altar.
It is no great thing to a god. For me it was anger–
no consent on my part, no wooing, all harsh
rough as a field hand. I didn’t like it.
My hair coiled in fury; my mind held hate alone.
I thought of revenge, began to live on it.
My hair turned to serpents, my eyes saw the world in stone.
Whatever I looked at became wasteland.
The olive trees on the hill as I walked down
rattled in the wind, then stood– as if a hand
had fashioned them of bronze. I saw the town
where I was raised become a stone. The boys
ran by as on a frieze, the charioteer
whipping his horses, held his arm, mid-air.
His horses stopped in stride. My hair
started to hiss. I hurried to my door.
The servant with his water jar upraised
stands there forever. I strode across the floor.
My furious glance destroyed all live things there.
I was alone. I am alone. My ways
divide me from the world, imprison me in a stare.
The prisoner of myself, I long to lose
the serpent hair, the baleful eyes, the face
twisted by fury that I did not choose.
I’d like to wake up in another place,
look for my self again, but there recur
thoughts of the god and his misdeed always–
the iron arm, the fall, the marble floor
the stinking breath, the sweaty weight, the pain,
the quickening thrust.
And now the start,
the rude circling blood-tide not my own
that squirms and writhes, steals from me bone by bone–
his monster seed growing beneath my heart,
prisoned within my prison, left alone,
despised, uncalled for, turning my blood to stone.
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