Cult Statue of a Goddess
(found poem, Getty Museum)
1. Its provenance based on what we might term “forensic evidence”?
Briefly surveying in as neutral a manner as possible
the bravura display of wind-blown drapery over generous forms of her body,
illicit excavations in several archaeological zones,
I would also like to welcome the observers at today’s event:
not wearing a chiton and himation but rather a peplos,
the enthroned Zeus
lacking any indication of characteristic décolletage,
possibly Aphrodite, Demeter, or Hera
armed with a magic belt of leather or fabric
purchased from a “supermarket magnate.”
One need only think of the systematic looting
in what was ancient Morgantina, near the modern town of
the true right-arm socket
“skeletonized” by dissolution,
stored in a glass vial,
stored in boxes in the basement, all in style.
2. (unknown to anyone else in his family)
Good morning and welcome to the Aphrodite workshop.
A swelling, puffed-out mass around the face.
An exemplar of marriage for her human worshippers.
Stone for the limbs and wood for the body.
His father was a watchmaker who had worked in Paris.
An extremely immature, mixed calcareous sandstone
liberated through more mechanical weathering.
The morphology of quartz and feldspars,
also, presumably, gilt bronze hair,
suggest the traditional
submission to neutral, binding arbitration,
thin section petrography and scanning electron microscopy,
Fluorescence indicated modern contamination was absent.
Deep-water pelagic environment
calls for narrative explanation.
Often I had stopped, on my way down the road, to hold my ear against the pole, and, hearing its low moaning, I used to wonder what the paleface had done to hurt it.
—Zitkala-Ša, School Days of an Indian Girl
Persephone gone dark is disassembling
the telephone pole that connects
hell to the upper world. She wants to grok
the precise configuration
of wires that makes it possible
for her to speak to Mother
those wrenching seconds,
of circuits which allow
Mother to hang up on her
simply for stating the obvious.
Round thighs wrap old wood
as she begins to climb. Each thrust
splinters brown flesh,
sucks her backward
into memory’s spacetime:
frenetic flight through the woods,
tinkle bells of Mother laughing,
slip from the womb’s
warm walls of shame
which make her hell-home so familiar now. So
close she feels the sizzle off the wires,
could with her stainless clippers
sever the seven million
calls to the ones we curse,
Burn in Hades, bitch.
But all she wants to do is climb, run
without meaning or direction
beyond the acid ache of legs & lungs,
beyond desire or the end-state of suffering,
run to forget nesting in maternal arms,
run till she becomes running itself,
wind tearing out its own hair—
outpacing whispers & betrayal,
the memory of Demeter,
the letters of her name.
Experience the audio versions of these poems here.
Minal Hajratwala‘s latest book is Bountiful Instructions for Enlightenment, published by The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, of which she is a co-founder. She is the author of the award-winning epic Leaving India: My Family’s Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents (2009), which was called “incomparable” by Alice Walker and “searingly honest” by the Washington Post, and she is editor of Out! Stories from the New Queer India (2013). She was graduated from Stanford University, was a fellow at Columbia University, and was a 2011 Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar. As a writing coach, she loves helping people give voice to untold stories.
Photo credit: Celia Olsen