poems that won’t allow you to look away

Inspiring Wreckage:


by Patricia Smith

Poseidon was easier than most.
He calls himself a god,
but he fell beneath my fingers
with more shaking than any mortal.
He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders.

I made him bend his back for me,
listened to his screams break like waves.
We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled,
screaming and bucking our way from corner to corner.
The bitch goddess probably got a real kick out of that.
I’m sure I’ll be hearing from her.

She’ll give me nightmares for a week or so;
that I can handle.
Or she’ll turn the water in my well into blood;
I’ll scream when I see it,
and that will be that.
Maybe my first child
will be born with the head of a fish.
I’m not even sure it was worth it,
Poseidon pounding away at me, a madman,
losing his immortal mind
because of the way my copper skin swells in moonlight.

Now my arms smoke and itch.
Hard scales cover my wrists like armour.
C’mon Athena, he was only another lay,
and not a particularly good one at that,
even though he can spit steam from his fingers.
Won’t touch him again. Promise.
And we didn’t mean to drop to our knees
in your temple,
but our bodies were so hot and misaligned.
It’s not every day a gal gets to sample a god,
you know that. Why are you being so rough on me?

I feel my eyes twisting,
the lids crusting over and boiling,
the pupils glowing red with heat.
Athena, woman to woman,
could you have resisted him?
Would you have been able to wait
for the proper place, the right moment,
to jump those immortal bones?

Now my feet are tangled with hair,
my ears are gone. My back is curving
and my lips have grown numb.
My garden boy just shattered at my feet.

Dammit, Athena,
take away my father’s gold.
Send me away to live with lepers.
Give me a pimple or two.
But my face. To have men never again
be able to gaze at my face,
growing stupid in anticipation
of that first touch,
how can any woman live like that?
How will I be able
to watch their warm bodies turn to rock
when their only sin was desiring me?

All they want is to see me sweat.
They only want to touch my face
and run their fingers through my …

my hair

is it moving?

Inspiring Wreckage:
At Pegasus
by Terrance Hayes
They are like those crazy women
    who tore Orpheus
            when he refused to sing,
these men grinding
    in the strobe & black lights
            of Pegasus. All shadow & sound.
“I’m just here for the music,”
    I tell the man who asks me
            to the floor. But I have held
a boy on my back before.
    Curtis & I used to leap
            barefoot into the creek; dance
among maggots & piss,
    beer bottles & tadpoles
            slippery as sperm;
we used to pull off our shirts
    & slap music into our skin.
            He wouldn’t know me now
at the edge of these lovers’ gyre,
    glitter & steam, fire,
            bodies blurred sexless
by the music’s spinning light.
    A young man slips his thumb
            into the mouth of an old one,
& I am not that far away.
    The whole scene raw & delicate
            as Curtis’s foot gashed
on a sunken bottle shard.
    They press hip to hip,
            each breathless as a boy
carrying a friend on his back.
    The foot swelling green
            as the sewage in that creek.
We never went back.
    But I remember his weight
            better than I remember
my first kiss.
    These men know something
            I used to know.
How could I not find them
    beautiful, the way they dive & spill
            into each other,
the way the dance floor
    takes them,
            wet & holy in its mouth.

Terrance Hayes, “At Pegasus” from Muscular Music (2005 CMU Classics, 1999 Tia Chucha).

Source: Muscular Music (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2005)