meeting the myth

Rebecca Cross
Content Warnings
Sexual ContentAssault/Abuse/ViolenceBody Horror
"What a draw!—The Modern Medusa..."
Dec 24, 2020 10:54 PM

What a draw!—The Modern Medusa.

Everyone’s heard of the girl

who can stop men dead with her looks.

The barker knows how to sell it, too.

He hands every caller a mirror, tells them,

Don’t look directly. It’s like looking

at the pudenda of God. They enter my tent

backwards, all titter and sweat.

In their mirrors they see sallow cheek,

mud mouth, an ear and dark

writhing hair. They quiet down after that.

They’re imagining what I could do

with my tongue. Husbands blush,

picturing me in their bed. Wives tremble,

wondering how my hair would feel

brushing their thighs. Instead

of fulfilling their fantasies, I tell them

what I know about monsters:

That fishy god, all brine and sperm,

who forced himself on Medusa

on the floor of Minerva’s temple.

The young men, all swagger and heat,

who went to Medusa’s home, intending

to blind her and cut off her head.

It was Ovid who said her looks were

a punishment from Minerva—a myth

from a man who couldn’t believe

a woman might consider ugliness a gift.

Truth is, we’d all love some of that

open-mouthed, serpenty dread—

a repulsiveness that can kill. In all the stories

about her, Medusa never harms a woman—

make of that what you will.


REBECCA CROSS is a disabled poet who works as an editor in Vermont. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Woven Tale Press, Breath and Shadow, and Always Crashing.