Encased in glass, this toddler’s training pot bares seven chipping scars glued snug again by gloves that puzzled back a rim. The lesson here is how two thousand years may heave
but hunching doesn’t change. The red design encircling the bowl fades in scattered flakes. Impossible to tell if a mother’s arms are really there, or just geometry
a potter’s brush flared on to raise the price for tipsy merchants strolling by the docks whose days were clacking drachmas changing hands. Fantastical, the tale my professor told
was of Athenian aristocrats ashamed their youngest son was mute but moaned and shit through seizure sweats. They gave him up to their childless slave, a witch, who sang and swayed him as he quaked. One night she wept until her tears turned them both to octopi that swam so deep beyond the Pylos coast they lost all earthly names inside the sea.
May Night after Willard Leroy Metcalf’s 1906 painting
The marble mansion glows, a butchered tusk. Its grand estate is wild and wooded still though grass that meets the portico is cut so low it looks like moss, wearing arrowheads of leaves in patchy dappled shade. The only light
besides the jaundiced sheen from stars is orange and spilling from a window lamp, obscured by prickly shrubs too tall to trim without laddered shears. The orange is meant to draw us from ourselves, like a diary in flame
or blood a mouth has spit across hot sand. A patient eye may follow it to find the maiden strolling robed in aimlessness, a wan and regal specter, who trails her nightgown like a tree-torn parachute.
Some yards away, she stares beyond the stairs she left, their massive column pairs, the door we cannot see. Alone and turned from us her beauty is the beauty of a conch half-glimpsed by lovers strolling down a strand
who think the world a storeroom full of props, who stop to point and coo while holding hands then watch the surf return it to the sea. Whose grumbles has she fled? What father, son, or groom has driven her desperate for air?
Never mind. She is pacing back inside to bear their growl again, but lingers here in forever’s frame, not quite returned from own-swoop shadow-fall, another bride who drags her dewy hem and cannot hide.
-- Adam Tavel is the author of five books of poetry, including the forthcoming Green Regalia (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2022). His most recent collection, Catafalque, won the Richard Wilbur Award (University of Evansville Press, 2018). His recent poems appear, or will soon appear, in Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, The Massachusetts Review, Copper Nickel, and Western Humanities Review, among others. You can find him online at http://adamtavel.com/.