. . . my sisters married parched old kings
To give my father fine alliances;
I scaled the tree and heard an oracle
Foretell I would not bear a fate like theirs.
– Marly Youmans, The Throne of Psyche
All the girls, driven early to choose
between old men and monsters, between
gods in masks and gods in suits of gore:
Could we not for one gold month in summer
declare time out? Say July, July
will be the month of no seductions,
not a marriage, not a grope, no sly
or brutal innuendo. Just a month
for children to be children, thirty days
to play and wonder, look up at the sky
and see no vicious swans: see no
slack-faced bulls swimming the bloody sea?
No delays. We stumble in our haste
to pitch our evils, wounded and gasping,
in the fresh-earthed mounds where Venus
was rumored to be snapped with her new friend,
(unless it was Brigitte or Brittany or Eve)
and Vulcan's agony churned the ground.
No truce, no peace, no amnesty; if you wait
at all the good ones may be gone. We used
to cut an eye-hole in the melon rind
and thrust a dirty finger in its flesh:
waiting for elegant slices took too long.
But this is only always to look backward,
too late, too late, the summer is too late!
And we run backward through the flickering reel
and back before the first red sons
rose glaring in the bloody-fingered east:
we try to say “here, it started here,” but tapes
snap and glitter and run on and on, each crime
turns out more monstrous than the one it spawned,
till only Sin remains, alone and naked,
stitching fig leaves, with a trembling needle,
onto its swollen lips. And still the film runs on.
Somewhere in Ionia faithful servants
restore the lion gate. Women are everywhere,
none of them afraid: the sky has softened
and they talk in quiet voices. The men are asleep,
with smeared faces, bruised into beauty,
the paths of their tears pale, edged with black;
ash-crust is clotted on their eyelashes,
and their beards are stiff with seaweed.
The woman hope that, rescued from the tide,
and spread out thus to dry, perhaps they'll
bleach to some acceptable color,
and wake before the rains.