On my hands and knees, I reach
for the ice cubes fallen beneath the fridge.
The cold transports me
to the pond my father dug
in our backyard, frozen.
Suddenly, I am in January
in July—a girl not yet tall enough
to reach the icemaker,
kicking ice in with the heel of her boot
to watch the water swallow the debris.
The coldness of that water,
when I shed my mittens
and dipped my fingers in,
the jagged light
from the kitchen window framed
by two pine trees,
and my mother’s bright face appearing—
The Swedish have a word, Mangata:
the road-like reflection
of the moon in water—
a path you can see
but cannot cross.
Hounds of Zeus
Zeus sent three Harpies to punish King Phineas of Thrake for revealing the
secrets of the gods.
First, the Harpies were striking.
Swan-white faces and feathered hair:
half-bird, half-woman wind spirits.
Then Zeus turned them into birds of prey
cursed with insatiable hunger:
throats built like flutes, instruments holed,
for his fingers and to drain all drink—
slaves of the Thracian King’s table
stacked with split figs, olives,
fish flesh slid off the spine, and bread
dipped in red wine. They stole food
from Phineas’ lips, starved him
until nothing but skin clung to his bones.
Then Argonauts drove the hags back,
attacked at dark: the wings, the naked
breasts, and dragged them, dead,
to an indebted King who granted a dove
and mapped a path through the Black Sea:
a final bird to test the pass, its death a sign
to turn back. This is what it means to fly
in the updraft at the front of the flock,
as the tool and sentence of a god,
as the tip of the arrow pulled back on the bow,
by the hand of a man—then let go.
I was beautiful too
until he took me for himself
in the temple where I pledged purity
to the goddess who cursed me.
Blame belongs to the one
who has been fouled.
If I am ugly I am made this way
by the faces of horror.
I became horrified at their horror—
their stares killed me too.
I have nothing to reflect on.
You think I wanted their disgust frozen—
tombstones for my beauty?
I did not want to be alone
with the bodies and the memory:
the sea invading in the dark,
and the black snakes thrashing.
Sydney Doyle is an MFA student in poetry at The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. Previously, she has been published in Kalliope and Canary.