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  Patricia Smith
Patricia Smith
Patricia Smith is the only four-time national champion of the notorious and wildly popular National Poetry Slam. She was featured in the nationally-released film "Slamnation," and appeared on the award-winning HBO series "Def Poetry Jam." A short film of Smith performing the poem "Undertaker," produced by Tied to the Tracks Films, won awards at the Sundance and San Francisco Film Festivals and earned a prestigious Cable Ace Award as part of the Lifetime Network's first annual Women's Film Festival. Her latest poetry book, Teahouse of the Almighty, was chosen by Edward Sanders as a 2005 National Poetry Series winner (Coffee House Press). She is also the author of three previous books of poetry—Close to Death (Zoland Books), Big Towns, Big Talk (Zoland Books) and Life According to Motown (Tia Chucha). A selection of Smith's poetry was produced as a one-woman play by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott.

"Her work resides in the present, in the urban neighborhood, in nightclubs, streetcorner gathering places like the barber shop or in 3:00 AM taxi rides home. She throws fierce charisma. She always has. And while she writes from the "I", she writes selflessly so. The audience is free to step into her shoes as they will, trying on her point of view as her writing slips into the identities of others. In all of this, there is an enlightened, worldly political conscience."
- Kurt Heintz

Medusa



Patricia Smith
Poseidon was easier than most.
He calls himself a god,
but he fell beneath my fingers
with more shaking than any mortal.
He wept when my robe fell from my shoulders.

I made him bend his back for me,
listened to his screams break like waves.
We defiled that temple the way it should be defiled,
screaming and bucking our way from corner to corner.
The bitch goddess probably got a real kick out of that.
I'm sure I'll be hearing from her.

She'll give me nightmares for a week or so;
that I can handle.
Or she'll turn the water in my well into blood;
I'll scream when I see it,
and that will be that.
Maybe my first child
will be born with the head of a fish.
I'm not even sure it was worth it,
Poseidon pounding away at me, a madman,
losing his immortal mind
because of the way my copper skin swells in moonlight.

Now my arms smoke and itch.
Hard scales cover my wrists like armour.
C'mon Athena, he was only another lay,
and not a particularly good one at that,
even though he can spit steam from his fingers.
Won't touch him again. Promise.
And we didn't mean to drop to our knees
in your temple,
but our bodies were so hot and misaligned.
It's not every day a gal gets to sample a god,
you know that. Why are you being so rough on me?

I feel my eyes twisting,
the lids crusting over and boiling,
the pupils glowing red with heat.
Athena, woman to woman,
could you have resisted him?
Would you have been able to wait
for the proper place, the right moment,
to jump those immortal bones?

Now my feet are tangled with hair,
my ears are gone. My back is curving
and my lips have grown numb.
My garden boy just shattered at my feet.

Dammit, Athena,
take away my father's gold.
Send me away to live with lepers.
Give me a pimple or two.
But my face. To have men never again
be able to gaze at my face,
growing stupid in anticipation
of that first touch,
how can any woman live like that?
How will I be able
to watch their warm bodies turn to rock
when their only sin was desiring me?

All they want is to see me sweat.
They only want to touch my face
and run their fingers through my . . .

my hair

is it moving?


� 1992 by Patricia Smith, from Big Towns, Big Talk, published by Zoland Books (Cambridge, MA). Used with permission. All rights reserved.



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