Circe Offers Comfort

by Moira Egan

The cyclicality of history
has traced this circle, strange geometry,
in which Odysseus forsakes his bed
and wanders back to Circe’s isle instead.
I am the Circe, then, whose father left
the little girl behind, mother bereft.
I saw my parents’ bed uprooted long
before that other woman came along.
They called her “whore” or, on a good day, “bitch.”
Meanwhile I learned my trade, the little witch
who grew into this woman whom you love,
whose incantations you’re enamored of.

(That preposition never suited me.
I never wanted of; I liked between.)

Now I’m the whore or bitch of whom they’ll speak.
We know the truth; I’ll turn the other cheek
and try to love you, best I can. It’s chance
that brought us here, and all the potions, chants
a witch can summon up can only calm
a little while. Smoothed into you like balm,
I’ll feed you food and watch you sleep. The dreams
will fade, although I know for now it seems
her name will haunt you like a childhood verse.
To walk away’s both blessing and a curse.

Moira Egan’s poetry collections are Cleave; La Seta della Cravatta/The Silk of the Tie; Bar Napkin Sonnets; and, most recently, Spin (Entasis Press, 2010). Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2008. With Damiano Abeni, she has published books in translation by John Barth, Mark Strand, Josephine Tey, and John Ashbery, whose collection, Un mondo che non può essere migliore: Poesie scelte 1956-2007, won a Special Prize of the Premio Napoli (2009). She has been a Mid Atlantic Arts Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; Writer in Residence at St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, Malta; a Writing Fellow at the Civitella Ranieri Center; and a Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center. She has been teaching poetry and literature for many years, and now teaches English and Creative Writing at John Cabot University in Rome.

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