They say they found her bones in a burial mound
on Syros, in the Cyclades, a small skull with a trail
of serpent bones mostly crushed to dust, which look
to have been attached. The particular evolutionary
advantage of this specific adaptation has not yet
been determined, but now we know that she lived
in the Mediterranean, just north of The Sea of Crete.
They named her Medusa, of course, and so far none
of the archeologists that looked at her have turned
to stone, though it’s likely they will one day, when
their mirrors break and all they have left are
memories of a grisly smile. She was a monster
after all, though really, it’s hard to say why
(aside from the turning to stone effect, which
was hardly her fault). Talk about blaming the victim –
another rape by the gods, and she gets the hairdo
from hell, snakes resistant to comb and brush,
or even conditioner squeezed from the bodies of crabs.
And it’s not like she walked around looking for people
to transform. If you had to end up on that volcanic pile,
with its black dagger rocks to tear at naked feet,
you might have had the sense to stay away from
the cave she shared with those immortal “sisters”
(no blood of her poor mortal self) and even they
no more guilty of death than vipers or eagles or sharks.
Turning to stone seems a natural thing, protection
like wolfsbane or monkshead or other poisonous plants,
or armor, like a turtle’s shell or defensive weapons
like tines on a porcupine’s back.
Was she even human then, when the hero’s blade
cut that writhing head of horrors at the neck,
and a goddess fashioned a flute to imitate the high
pitched screams she offered, her last sacrifice to mist
and sea breeze as her life drained out onto the scarring sand?
[Steve Klepetar’s work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Flutter Press has recently published two chapbooks: My Father Teaches Me a Magic Word and My Father Had Another Eye.]