by Grace Richards
The poets, in their propaganda,
like to dance around the themes of fate
and free will. Ovid and Yeats describe
me as a beautiful young girl, specially
chosen by Zeus, yet unappreciative
and probably ignorant of the fact.
My fate was to be born a woman.
Against God’s will, I don’t stand a chance.
I am staggering and helpless, unable
to push away the swift, cocksure fowl
with my vague, terrified fingers.
I am surprised by the sudden blow,
the swan’s great wings beating still,
as it catches my neck in its sharp beak,
as it lays me out on the damp, fertile ground,
as it presses its bony avian body close
against the softness of my throat and breasts,
that I might feel its strange heart beating
where we lie. Its dark webbed feet part
my unwilling thighs. With hard insistence,
it violates and impregnates me
with wild, Olympian seed.
When it’s over:
I am bloody and bruised, my dress smeared
with green algae drooled from its mouth.
I am unimpressed by the feathered glory
of this god in disguise,
by the deception
and artifice he undertakes
for the act of rape.
The poets say
I was mastered by this brute blood of the air,
but I was there,
and that is only their delusion.
* * * * *
Italicized phrases are quoted from “Leda and the Swan” by William Butler Yeats, 1924.
Grace Richards has worked in the TV and film industry in Los Angeles and taught ESL at the college level in Southern California and at the University of Oregon. During the last few most dramatic years, she has found her poetic voice. Her work has been published by SettingForth.org, Herstryblog.com, Willawaw Journal, and in the anthology Poems on Poems and Poets (Setting Forth Press, 2016). Her first chapbook, Mid-Century Modern and Other Poems, was published in September 2019 by Dancing Girl Press (available for purchase from www.dancinggirlpress.com and from the author).