Issue No. 2, Autumn 2012

Leda and Helen

Leda tore open her scalp
trying to rid herself of ivory feathers—
when she thought she was free, one
would brush
against her skin—
the weight
on her back, screams
that cut her throat and tongue—

she tried to curl so small
she’d disappear.

*

A swan bowed its head
as Helen stroked ivory feathers.

With a red ribbon from her hair,
she made a leash and led it home.

Her stepfather laughed and said,
The swan now has a swan.

Leda strode up and wrapped
her soft hands around

the swan’s neck—wings beating
against her arms—Helen shrieked,

tearing at her mother’s dress.
The white body fell limp on the stone.

*

The moment seared
—sparks
flew in the air, but Helen didn’t care
what her husband would do,
the city burning.
Crushed
by a thousand eyes, she’d rather the weight
of stones bury her alive.
She wanted a knife
to blind her audience,
to shake off the weight
of history
and no longer bear
the consequences for the gods.

*

If Leda had known
that it was necessary—
the blood mixing with the waves—
for history,
civilization,
even poetry,
it would have changed nothing.

She wasn’t Iphigena,
she’d never stride
to the shore, expose
a white marble neck
for the priest to butcher.

She never thought
the Gods deserved
all those sacrifices.

They already took what they wanted.

* * *

Say Nothing

Weeping Cassandra recounts her visions:
a horse birthing an army,
a house with bleeding walls.

The royal court is annoyed
with her morbid imagination—
her cry for attention.

Her mother leads her from the room
and warns that No one
wants to hear that kind of talk.

~

Silence is taught
mother to daughter.
Fight and flight are not always possible;
you must find cover
where there is none.

Perpetually the warning:
Don’t say that to his face.

Sadness and rage
is swallowed
but never digested.

When a stranger (so helpfully) informs you
You’d be pretty
if you smiled.
Reflex draws back your lips
(you’re always so polite).

Grief is still there—
the friend still murdered,
the city still burnt.

~

At Delphi, the Sybil spoke of plagues,
famine and war; all came to pass.
Eventually
the only question asked was
Don’t you have anything pleasant to say?

~

Cut off the tongue; sew the lips shut;
learn the silent langue;
see the fury
of cross-stitched tiger,
the despair of livid red scars,
the spite of a cracked tea cup.

~

A girl carved words into leaves
for centuries scholars and historians saw
a compost heap.

One day, a poet strolled past,
his muse,
his lover,
the woman who darns his socks, stopped
and read those prophecies.

As she filled her apron with fragments,
her man asked
What are you doing?
She said Nothing and smiled.


Jennifer Lynn Krohn was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she currently lives with her husband. She earned her MFA from the University of New Mexico, and she currently teaches English and CNM. Jennifer has published work in The Saranac Review, Adobe Walls, RED OCHRE LiT, Prick of the Spindle, and In the Garden of the Crow.