Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2017  Vol. 16 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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In Which St. Irene, Born Penelope, Is Spared by Beasts of Water, Earth and Sky

Gentle friend: I was more than my dying

Neither beast of water nor of field turned force against me

wild breath horses all their terror their lightning their small cities of dust

undid death with a sudden lulling as if etherized

made thick with sleep at the sight of me laid out on the muddy street

their hooves dropped roots in sandstone

their torpedo heads turned away away

And in the pit of vipers when the fanged bit my thighs I was

blood turned venom after which I was venom turned honey

turned greening branch in the mouth of a dove

and the raven with her one pine eye carried me a snake’s tongue

and made me to speak I said daughters I said sand swimmers

I too remember the garden

And with one with one wrenching snap as a river branching they spared me

Even the bronze oxen could not be brought to boil my tender my open

With one voice beasts spoke they said nothing of God:

Not today will you take the head of Irene born Penelope

who is terrible who does not fear her father

whose heart has been eaten by an eagle bearing a wreath in its beak—  

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