POET SHOTS # 3 (SERIES B) by Ray Greenblatt
Pasiphae, by Joanne Hayhurst
From the leathery leaves of olive trees nearby
an open window, a winter rain's been weeping
while her blood is slowly seeping onto
sheepskin where she lies in silence
of the birthing room. As if she's half
asleep or dreaming in the rain light
of a cave, where shadows without margins
merge and shift and sounds sometimes confuse,
there seems to be a whimpering from somewhere.
Rising, dreading, drawn beyond her will,
she shudders as blood trickles down her thighs--
she comes closer, sees the swaddling clothes,
the small stirring in the cradle. Time swallows
time: she's flung, fragmented, into
dark, through whirling worlds, free-falling--
as though her womb had filled with dross or stone,
she settles to the floor beside the cradle.
Beyond her will, fierce trembling hands unbind,
unwind the rags, the endless swathing--
naked now, exposed--a small thing, limp,
and wet, unfolding the old darkness
of a dream. A moan--his, or hers?--
Smother it or back away or leave it
here to dry and wither, disappear.
The small thing turns his head: dark eyes open,
seeking hers; in them wells the sharing
of their sorrow: his delicate long lashes,
the flesh, the downy hide, the muscular
perfection, the cord, the velvet flanks,
the fetlocks, hooves, a fine and graceful tail.
The baby's fingers tighten at her touch--
nails, thin as skin of grapes, pale as water--
his infant fist closes on her finger;
she brings him to her: hot familiar breath
upon her neck, his smell of rising yeast
or forest floors in summer. She rests her face
upon his face, on two furred nubs that will
become the terrifying horns. The queen
begins a heavy humming: old sounds
of the Aegean Sea and winter rains--
Maybe she expected it: the door's
flung wide and, oh, the animal howling.
A mother's love knows no boundaries--not even for something unearthly: "the downy hide, the muscular/perfection, the cord, the velvet flanks,/the fetlocks, hooves, a fine and graceful tail." Although a queen she has suffered so much, as he will: "in them well the sharing/of their sorrow."