5 Poems from Head of a Gorgon by Raegen Pietrucha

Sea Cleaving

The men of nets
have their ways. Wives
and daughters play their part, weave

so husbands and sons can leave
at dawn, sweep salted waters with lengths
of trains that callus their hands.

Poverty is obvious. It’s the crisp of skin
peeling off the sunburned leather
of a sea-weathered neck. The stink of fish too deep

beneath the nails to be breached. The way
captives will always be clubbed in their traps
as if all smaller creatures were made simply

to pay a penance—the flimsy body buckling,
conferring blood, delivering one last
flail after the strike that finally breaks it

arrives. There is hunger—too much hunger.
Who knows where it comes from.
The day you meet him, your insides grind against

themselves; he lumbers under a palpable
weight of fish from that water —
wet, iridescent prizes glistening.

You pray they'll crush you.
They will. The moment your teeth gnash
meat, you christen him your lord. 

Letters Between Medusa & Poseidon

I. Medusa's Hunger

What you remind me: I’ve heard these stories
before—men who part waves, multiply fish.

A flood of thoughts hiss, dissonant, as if
my head brims with the water where we met.

Have you wondered whom you could be with me?
Admittedly, I have imagined two

futures bound, though the space for my pair's face
sat blank as a page. But now that we've met,

my mind veneers yours to hopes so hopeless,
I've rarely ever dared to humor them.

Is it possible a person can heal
a leper through just a single touch, can

prevent the sea's crests from overwhelming,
can feed this famine from a single fry?

II. Poseidon's Thirst

The question is, how close will you permit
me to approach? You're a cage for yourself,

and you'd stay there if I let you. I've known
birds like you before, tried my serenades

to charm you out of that place and into
my arms. You claim that you're gripped by the thought

of some version of love, yet you've forged space
so far from me, I fear my hands can't reach

past these rungs to touch you or even toss
you more than a crumb.  And how can I save

you from any swell when I'm locked outside
your gate? It's lonely here, a desert so

thirsty it can only think of water.
Is it so wrong to long for just a sip?

III. Medusa's Dilemma

What the sea reminds me:
Desires are like sand—
crude intruders in a day’s flow
that stack and stack

until their weight suffocates.
I don't know what to do
with my past besides steep
it silently, slide your hands

away from my skin
when we come in
from the swim
I've wished I could take

your mind off the water,
its tongues tracing all
the places you wish to be.
I've filled your ears

with my best tunes, but you
continue circling my body,
its salt and scents. I know
what you imagine

with me, but the thought
burns me raw—grains abrading
the luster of the image
of you I worship.

Can there be
no such thing
as love between 
us without that?

IV: Poseidon's Appeal

The way your skin shimmers like the sea
                       now it’s you who cages me
and this parched pilgrim
                       seeks more than just mirage
wants most those keys
                        you keep from me
if only you’d concede
                       sky without sea is incomplete
if only you were willing to unlatch
                       bound with me beyond boundaries
this is what it means
                       to be we
this is the way
                       lovers should be

V: Medusa's Lesson at the Ranch

What desert reminds me:
Secrets can hide from outsiders,
but not from my body—

its curves consumed by sand,
heels up to thighs, back,
and clinging sweaty to my neck.

What if I say more:
Cows don't know
they're fed fat.

for slaughter.
Their calves
will forget them.

This knowledge won't change
the patchwork of hide
and land that cloaks daily affairs

like the quilt you lie
over not under us, gnats
swimming in our humidity.

What desert reminds me:
Secrets can hide from outsiders.
But for how long? The hurts my mouth

blurts betray but you don't end your quest;
the sand is shadowing, turning a bolder
version of itself; you're bolstered over

me, stained by sweat, sun, dusty stalks
of electrified straw.  The sun falls and all
I can do is try to find something sharper

than the pain. Clouds above unravel
sky like hides ripped, revealing the red
of an animal I can't name.

After, I sit in a tub
with no water.
Then I sit on a porch.

It's morning once more.
A herd speaks from the distance
Too far to see.

The land remembers its lot and feeds it.
The earth remembers its purpose, continues
to break beneath teeth.

VI: Poseidon's Recoil

Best forget
            what's happened
                        forget about me
            your hands can't trap
this unbridled tide
            unleashed inside
                        anything between us
             has passed
like water flees fingers
           like a word spoken
                       erases from space
            to make way for others
find another
             to be your waste

Transfiguration of Medusa

I.  Duplicitous Blood

Once, my blood moved nothing like red; then,
ache cut down to the veins, overthrew

the blue liquid my body breathes through;
now that fickle drip sticks

beneath my skin in purpled pools, confused, seeking
a new retreat, as if water or wine could take its place,

as if the sun could stretch far enough to touch and warm me,
as if red could travel far enough back

to resurrect a girl
felled in the grass at sunset.

II. Defeated Wings

My back strains beneath
the weight of a black, broke divinity. Holy leaves flap
in the breeze, but their words don’t restore me.

I can’t flee this body.
My mind can’t find a peak to soar to; the weight
of memory tethers me.

III. Unblinking Eyes

I'd saved my gaze
to search for a hero
only to find a
predator's conceit.

Now salt singes my sockets.
Vigilant beacons forget
the comfort of closing, refuse
any respite from their watch.

IV. Hardened Hands

Foolish digits will forget
how they almost submitted, cringe
at the thought that they once sought
another's. Battle-bruised knuckles
proved useless, shriek as they bend.

A new mold must be poured.
I swim my hands in.
To burn in gilt now
might make me invincible
once the heat's depleted.

V. Forking Tongue

He might say, with this spoiled mouth, I slander. But he split
me. My tongue senses the stench he left in stereo.

Trespasser treading the end of this plank,
you're the venom I retch from.

VI. Snaking Mane

No body could bear such warfare.

      My  head delivers riddles

                  of persistent hisses

forbidden liberation so long—

          twisted hair springs, slithers,

                       claims my scalp's terrain

and crowns my fate—

           thanks to this man,

                       the oblivious birth of my serpents.


The first to set his sights on me after tried hymns,
but the dissonance struck too similar—

his chords, always choked.

The next pledged devotion,
but another's portrait dropped from his pocket—

his fingers, perpetually outstretched.

Then one came who tried to hide beneath my pane,
but he didn’t see the glass was already cracked—

his fractures, natural.

But it’s been so long, and there have been so many,
it’s hard now to recall how it first felt

to witness the twist seize skin

like ivy, realizing I was the root.
For a while, I'll admit I could live

with hunting understudies;

that seemed the best I could do,
marked for this dark art, my nemeses

too clever, avoiding this perimeter.

I'd settle for some substitute
for justice, torment under gluttons.

ignoring the warnings.

I once wished a tender
face could exist with me. But now

I know better. Men keep advancing;

the same gaze awaits; everything
petrifies. This is no life.

No one wishes for kisses that shock white.

Note From the Nadir

No savior awaits. These men are predators,
and every girl, doomed to be consumed by their smoke and mirrors.
I’m testing the edges of shards with my hand,

guessing the distance between cold silver, steaming red.
My life’s been a feast of smoke and mirrors.
Best to slice through that meat with my own hand,

put some distance between real and pretend
now that I know the hero I sought will never reach me, doesn’t exist.
Can I cut through illusion with my own two hands

as swiftly and easily as my head sopped up what was fed?
I’m certain the dream I chased never existed;
there is no great epiphany.

Yet my head still ingested what was fed.
What can you do when part of the problem is you?
You’d think there’d be some epiphany,

that the equation could be worked out in one’s head,
but there’s nothing you can do when the problem is you.
Can you solve that problem with your head?

Can you solve that problem in your head?
Try to solve any problem in your head
when the root of the problem is you.

No savior awaits. These men are all the same.
That problem lives in and beyond my brain.
So thank goodness for sharp shards, steadfast hands.

“Sea Cleaving” (originally published in Paper Nautilus)

“Letters Between Medusa and Poseidon” (originally published in Juke Joint)

“Transfiguration of Medusa” (originally published in Persephone’s Daughters)

“Relics” (originally published in Feral: A Journal of Poetry and Art)

“Note From the Nadir” (originally published in Juke Joint)

Bio: Raegen Pietrucha writes, edits, and consults creatively and professionally. Her chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition; her debut poetry collection, Head of a Gorgon, is forthcoming with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in 2022; and she has a memoir in progress. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Her work has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Connect with her at raegenmp.wordpress.com and on Twitter @freeradicalrp.

Wolfpack Contributor: Raegen Pietrucha

Books to look out for: Head of a Gorgon by Raegen Pietrucha (coming out in May 2022 with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press)

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1


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