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?
 
© 1992 by Patricia Smith, from Big Towns, Big Talk, published by Zoland Books (Cambridge, MA). Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah by Patricia Smith
My mother scraped the name Patricia Ann from the ruins
They Romp with Wooly Canines by Patricia Smith
and spy whole lifetimes on the undersides of leaves


Further Reading

Related Poems
Medusa
by Frieda Hughes
Poems About Hell
The Aeneid, Book VI, [First, the sky and the earth]
by Virgil
A Myth of Devotion
by Louise Glück
A Season in Hell
by Arthur Rimbaud
Canto XIV
by Ezra Pound
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
Hellish Night
by Arthur Rimbaud
How Can It Be I Am No Longer I
by Lucie Brock-Broido
I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra
by Ishmael Reed
Orfeo
by Jack Spicer
Proverbs of Hell
by William Blake
Silence Raving
by Clayton Eshleman
Slim Greer in Hell
by Sterling A. Brown
Song of Devils
by Thomas Shadwell
Strange Meeting
by Wilfred Owen
Styx
by Dana Levin
The Bistro Styx
by Rita Dove
The Dead
by Mina Loy
The Philosophy of Pitchforks
by Sue Owen
The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland
Worst Things First
by Mark Bibbins