Woven through with Snakes


I sometimes dream I have an extra set of eyes on the sides of my head
which I fail to hide with my hair, my snakes.
In dreams I know a woman with snake-hair hunts with her eyes.

            Prey animals wear their eyes on the sides of their head
            to better see us coming.
            We wear our eyes on the front of our head
            to better track them bounding, fleeing along the horizon.

My past and my future are two sisters
sharing a single eye, predator and prey,
a single eye between them —

no, not shared, but passed,
traded, hounded, hoarded.


            Always an animal should be a verb. Hound.
            Always animals of our invention should hoard themselves unto themselves.
            Always animals should become nouns, free of us.

            We love the word master,
            we cannot stop gnawing, sucking at the marrow,
            cannot help but hope fate settles inside bones,

            oxygen factories,
            red plants to feed the electric rooms of our heart.

No one warned me that love was not a broad road
or a corrugated ribbon or corrective brace.

No one warned me that love was a a kind of barn where
animals pass muteness and breath back and forth between night and day.


            Ovid tells us Perseus used his shield to spy upon Medusa
            as she slept. As she slept, her snakes slept.

My hair is dead once it touches the air and always asleep,
and never watches over me, and of course, no woman’s hair
can stop a sword, not even if it has one hundred eyes.

            As Perseus struck her sleeping head from her
            sleeping body, her blood poured onto the ground beneath her.
            “Out sprang swift Pegasus and his brother both.”

            In the temple of Minerva, Neptune raped the beautiful, sought-after Medusa.
            “Jove’s daughter turned away from the outrage
            and chastely hid her eyes behind her aegis.”

            Her hair, once her best feature, became her punishment,
            in order to overwhelm her foes with terror.

If I should die by the sword of a hero, I have one request.
Burn my hair so that, acrid and black, it may
finally rise and taste the sky.

And as a horse may rise in flight
from the ground beneath my neck,
dripping with, then shaking off the last
hot rivulets of my blood, christen it
with my name so that I may in name approach
the sun with all four of my eyes, not shared
anymore with a sister or anyone else.

And should that hero use me in death as in life,
all of my eyes snake-like, appearing at all times awake and alive,

I will bear him from triumph to triumph,
snakeskins long shed and forgotten,

my body full of labyrinths,
each with a monster at the dark, gold center.

Sun Yung Shin (© 2017)