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it’s not our glance
that turns you to stone
but your own—
as soon as you see us
you become cold
unable to respond
to ugly women

The Gorgons were three sisters (Medusa was one of them) who were monsters with ‘snaky hair, most horrible’; whoever looked at them turned instantly to stone.

Chryseis and Briseis

it would seem
that nothing is more important to a man
than a woman:
they go to war
because of one
and once there
they fight and kill
to get one:
Agamemnon got Chryseis,
then sulked when the gods said
he had to give her back,
and stole Briseis,
the one Achilles had gotten,
to have instead.

so this is my poem
for you, Chryseis, and you, Briseis
sitting in their tents
trying to understand
how you can be both prisoner and prize,
how you can be sought like gold
but treated like shit.

suddenly it comes to you:
it’s not womanhood that’s being glorified
but manhood—
and proof of the latter is having one of the former

the problem understood
the solution is clear:
establish another proof of manhood.
no, it’s really not so much
a matter of proof
as a matter of definition—

in either case,
it’s out of your hands,
as long as they’re tied.

Agamemnon and Achilles were both members of the Greek army that fought the Trojan War (a war begun over a woman, Helen). A quarrel began about Chryseis, who had been carried off by the Greeks and given to Agamemnon. Chryseis’ father begged for her release but Agamemnon refused. Because this angered the gods (Chryseis’ father was a priest of Apollo), the army chiefs, led by Achilles, persuaded Agamemnon to change his mind. He did so, saying ‘But if I lose her who was my prize of honour, I will have another in her stead’. He then sent two of his men to Achilles’ tent to get his prize, a woman named Briseis. Achilles allowed them to take her, but swore he would have revenge.

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dreaming of kaleidoscopes

dreaming of kaleidoscopes

whirls a storm
of scarlet and crimson
the cobweb drips
and black and blue

black blue shrouds
the bleeding petals
scabs and scars
blowing across the snow

desert voices
in a white room
stark and naked
walk slowly

twisted grey and sometimes purple
rarefied and far too dense
i walk
i walk
and every now

and then
i pick up a piece
like shards of glass
some mirrors
and i don't know
if i throw it away
if i lose it
if i store it for sustenance
to inflict
to understand


standing on a cliff
in a silent blizzard
and dreaming of kaleidoscopes
all the pieces always fit

and i don't know
i won't take
the one with the sharpest edge
and make the cut
to end all cuts.

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Lost Gospels

Lost Gospels

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The Secret Signature of Things

The Secret Signature of Things

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Here Is Where We Disembark

Here Is Where We Disembark

also available: Paperback
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From “Transmutations”:


Moon when coyote is my shadow. Moon of the snapping willow thickets. Moon of the missing cats.

Moon of the potluck Moon of the tock, tock at the woodpile. Moon of filched sleep.

Moon that raises our chins with light years, traces the camber of a wing.

From “When We Begin To Grow Old”:


Tell me the one about the town where you were born, where the ocean froze in the bay, how it moaned and clacked and collapsed with the tides leaving its bright and violent architecture not much good for skates.

Copyright © Clea Roberts, 2010

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