Patricia Gray won a 2023 Artist Fellowship in Poetry from the DC [District of Columbia] Commission on the Arts and Humanities. She formerly headed the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center in Washington, DC, USA. Her work has been widely published and anthologized most recently in Still Me from Wolf Ridge Press and in Endlessly Rocking celebrating Walt Whitman. Her poem “A Harbor Town” appeared in the May 2023 issue of Beyond Words and “Antique Shop” is in the August 27, 2023 issue of the Washington Writers Publishing House newsletter. Also, in mid-September, her new website PatriciaGrayAuthor.com will go live.
Ever the seductress, Melina
slipped us into a party of intellectuals
on the last night of their sojourn.
The Acropolis blazed in jubilation.
Endless hours of longueurs behind them,
the scholars strutted and one-upped
while downing the fresh red wine.
I was merely a bystander then
on the arm of Melina’s louche brother,
as we listened to their toasts
full of flummery and flash echoing
across the conifers dotting the hill.
Soon, a raffish man with the face
of a mastiff pulled me aside and
speared me with a runcible
question on the physics of quarks,
until a lawyer from Aegina
joined us and began his disquisition
on the sidereal nature of time.
How the stars must have chuckled
that night at his spurious premises,
while I, the outlier, nodded,
attempting a Mona Lisa smile.
As he talked, the tall lawyer leaned
on one of the restaurant’s faux columns
that wobbled precipitously on its
plastic plinth. We left in a hurry, then,
and once back on Athens’ flat streets,
I saw it finally—that slightly sinister
glint in the eyes of Melina’s brother, so
I asked him to drop me at Syntagma
Station, and when I reached the house
where I stayed, though it was closed tightly,
I turned the key and felt safe.
I can’t say I thought of him again
until fifteen years later when
Melina called me for lunch in Seattle
and showed me a photo of her son—
the very image of her brother. As she
spoke slowly I learned Melina was part
of a modern drama. Her brother
had doubled his genes upon her, and
after the boy was born, he left for America,
saying he would never return.
“Have you seen him?” she whispered,
her green eyes alert, but of course
I had not. “If you do,” she said softly,
“Please, give him my love.”
ON A FRIEND’S HIDDEN BEACH
Day of a curve I am bent to.
Shell shards clash
shore rocks, cut sand. Alone, we girls
Sun suffuses each scratch and tanned limb.
Sun Daddy smiles his big head,
and we so happily nude, buoyant sea animals
with our eyes
cast to this Eden. We walk it
as light copies shore.
Everything here is good; everything in me
is not. I pour salt in the sugar bowl, steal
plums in daylight from the neighbor’s trees.
Blue irises lap
toward the shore; roses tilt
powder-pink to the sky.
Soft passages and swift—one dune world
of tall exploring.
Soak now in sunshine all who would rest.
Patience, as we become
fish, creatures we were once and are.
POSEIDON’S REVENGE SPELL
…lured by a softening eye,/ Or by a touch
or a sigh,/ Into the labyrinth of another’s being;
—W.B. Yeats, “The Tower”
Minos loved art and beauty and built for Poseidon
a temple of carved stone. For the dedication,
he prayed to the blue sea god for a bull to sacrifice,
and that night on the path under a waning moon,
Minos heard soft hoof-clops and looked up
at Poseidon’s gift, a stunning bull: white, strong, magnetic.
He spared its life. Angered, Poseidon cast his spell
the next morning when Pasiphaë, Minos’s wife,
came upon the creature standing in dew-covered grass
and gasped. The bull had such eyes: sentient, compelling,
sexual; its muscles, so taut and defined. Suddenly, she longed
to feel its great bulk against her. For hours, she braided
chervil wreaths to place ’round its neck—and hers.
She adorned the bull’s horns with gold chains and
gazed achingly into its eyes–so strong was its spirit,
so compassionate and seething.
When she confided her obsession to Daedalus,
he built a hollow wooden cow, so she could conceive.
For months, Pasiphaë, spent afternoons currying
the bull’s back and haunches with tortoise combs.
Her robes spread round, and soon she was delivered,
a perfect boy with eyes and head of his father, face
of a small bull calf. The lady’s servant whisked
the child away. Like all shameful relatives
through ages to come, this beautiful monster child
was hidden—the Minotaur was kept in the palace, and
from its baffling passageways, he could not escape.
Ah, Pasiphaë, what else could you do but love
the beautiful bulk and spirit you saw, and,
like any woman, put your body to it, bringing
into the world the mad passion you felt in
a small being you could shape and touch.
My heart first beat in another woman’s body.
She left in me a talisman
for sea changes, landfall and leaving.
We are sailing a night-lit Greek sea, blue beyond
indigo or ink, feeling
the myths that bind us in time above
the underwater dark
that lifts as we sail.
Perhaps now my daughter is raising her fetus eye,
beginning to suck her fingers,
like an animal with a large head and
fingernails softer than skin—
a being formed almost out of her own luck and
fishing string, from that bit
of gism and ovum clinging and splitting
till the match of life is struck.
And so it was for my mother’s mother
when she felt
for the ninth time, beneath her navel,
a quickening that would be
my mother, whose heart
throbbed above mine
as mine thumps over the sea creature
inside me, the one
I will push into the world—even as she
at the indignity of it, a cry
that from any human throat
wails the insatiable need to be held, to be fed.
Poetry in this post: © Patricia Gray
Published with the permission of Patricia Gray