The Girl I Was
wants to apologize
for the vodka sting
in her throat,
the giggling want
of the footballers
who tossed her like a pigskin,
her splash of laughter
under pool water,
That girl lost
the soaked clothes
someone peeled away,
and she’s sorry
for the replacements
two sizes too big,
with room enough
for the pug-faced one
his freckled hands
past her waistband
and wrench open
the place where
she still smelled of chlorine.
And she didn’t mean
for the room
to become a swirling
circus of rusted rings,
didn’t intend to lose
her focus, to swallow
her voice, her breath,
as his friend took her—
she asks forgiveness
for not knowing where—
for waking up after,
bloody and sober,
into a night
barren of stars.
The Woman I Intend to Be
So many equinoxes later,
Persephone flings flip flops
and sunscreen into her satchel
at the first crack and mournful cry
of ice straining against the river’s flow.
The ferryman paddles against the current,
and with each splash of the oar, each
knock of floe against the hull, the idea
of Hades blurs, as if it’s a photograph
held so close the image dissolves, and soon
she’s not even in the frame, and that night
in the meadow is gone. The hyacinth and crocus
become a dot-to-dot on the final page
in the book of her childhood. Like Sysiphus
she begins the mystery again,
but the 1 is never in the same place twice,
and the 2 is a freefall off the page,
into the next volume, Adulthood, a sequel
bereft of foreshadowing, whose narrator
is unreliable and easily sickened
by the scent of narcissus.
She plays dominatrix
to thin-boned, sweet-lipped
mortals who sigh that her body is a vessel,
her body is riverine. She fucks, and doesn’t
return calls or read the poems
left on her doorstep. She fills her mouth
with wine, with almonds and olives,
and apricots, honey-steeped thiples, but nothing
washes clean the bitter seeds lodged
in her throat.
Who am I kidding?
I am no goddess. There is no spring
to beckon me from the underworld.
That boy has long since forgotten
my name. It’s time
to dismantle this mausoleum of shame,
put down the “should haves,” pick up the oars,
become the river, the craft, the orchard
of saplings in bloom on the far bank
where the slow spring light is indiscriminate,
and warmer now.
The Mother I Am: An Open Letter to Demeter
Mother of Harvest, of Plenty, of Compromise,
These scales will never balance our horizon.
Time and again we’ve been patient
while men make gods and beasts of themselves,
gorge on our daughters, spit them into hell.
Listen, the judge has jizz on his hands.
His brothers devour Chicago dogs smeared with relish
and grunt approval from the sidelines.
The time for prayer has passed.
Gather the wronged: Persephone, Europa, Leda,
Medusa, Halpin, Washington, Havrilla,
the un-named in Stuebenville, in every country.
We will not pretty the ugly in them with
the shivs of our mouths. We may flinch
from the sucker punch of memory,
but we will not stop gathering the arsenal of our rage,
will not stop until we storm the fortress,
tear it down stone by stick, blaze the pyre,
and watch as every last fucker burns.
Patricia Caspers is the founding editor of West Trestle Review and poetry editor at Prick of the Spindle. Her full-length poetry collection, In the Belly of the Albatross will arrive via Glass Lyre Press in September, 2015.