Penelope’s jewels

copyright Victoria Corona 2006, all rights reserved.  Used by permission.

the great man brought me a jewel

he claims to have stolen

from a sorceress

What am I to make

of such a gift?

If the story of this sorceress

is to be believed

he could not have stolen

such a jewel

If the story he tells is true

I could be holding a trap

in my hands


the great man brought me a bone

from a Cyclopian graveyard

He knew I would appreciate

its magic, he said,

but I was confused

How magical is the horror

of devourment by

a one-eyed monster?

I took the bone to a high place

and built it a temple

of willow branches and deadly nightshade

then burned it to the ground


the great man brought me a sword

stained with his war

You earned it, he said,

my brave Warrior Queen.

When I held the sword in my hand

it quivered with the burden

of its dead

and it haunted my nightmares

with their screams

I returned the sword

to the great man

and told him I was unworthy


the great man brought me a harp

to sing away his idle nights

but the songs it sang

were not my own

and my fingers bled

on the strings

Even the great man

could not bear

the weariness of its song

and the harp was elevated

to relic

and enshrined


the great man brought me a veil

ripped from a faraway temple

still scented with incense

of prayers that had

yet to reach their gods

A veil woven in a pattern

I could never duplicate

and when I stepped

behind this veil

I saw a place

even my gods

could not conceive


the great man brought me a cup

filled with Egyptian wine

encrusted with the jewels of a weaker king

I placed it with my other trophies

ripped from the hands

of marauders who dared

raise their swords

on my shore

The fields are littered

with such trophies

and the bones of the hands

that held them


what I hold in my own hands

coated with the stench of graves

and trailing their own

sordid legends

is not enough

to rebuild my lost army

not enough to outshine

the jewels of his odyssey

just enough for the

dust of their legends

to cloud my visions

with obscurity.



from the chapbook Penelope

Kimberly White 2003



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