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Helen Lehman


Medusa’s Garden


That Libyan boy,

Seduced by my snakes’ pretty song.

I told him to keep his eyes shut.

He forgot. So ardent.

Ah, well, I thought,

I’ll put him in the garden---

On the plinth---

By the cypress---

I slept, sprawled above the 

Sex-scented sea.


They were on me before I knew:

Perseus with brutal sword and sack;

Grey-eyed Athena beside him,

Doubling the sunlight in her shield.

She drew back her fastidious skirts

When my blood spurted. Bitch!


I saw my face reflected in that shield.

Blood gushed. My affronted mob-cap writhed.

Forking the air with a hundred tongues.


He carried me to Seriphus

Bound and bouncing in that stinking leather bag,

Robbed of my wings, robbed of my body,

Staring blindly into nothing,

My snakes drugged by the reek of rotting blood.


He lifted me by my serpents into the light.

I looked, I looked and looked,

And king and slave,

Grand-dad, tourist, salesman,

All turned to stone.

My creation. My sculpture garden.


When he was through with me, 

He buried my head.

Did he think he’d killed me?

I can see in the dark. 

And I willed my body back.


I am in love with looking.

It is my action, it is my lust:

To mirror your secret face, 

To touch your secret body,

To petrify you.


Elude my eyes all day.

Sometime you must sleep, and then I come riding.

I stare,

Hunched above the withers of the wild night mare.

My snakes are singing in her mane,

Then in your bedclothes.

Asleep, as I was caught asleep, I catch you.

I see you what you are.

I claim you for my garden.

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