Poetry Issue 9

   Issue # 9: January-June 2008

Rebecca Givens



The Priestess at Delphi


      "[A] French photo of the temple’s interior showed not only a spring-like pool but fissures... in the bedrock, suggesting a specific pathway by which intoxicating gases could have risen into the oracle’s sanctum...Broad, pp. 146-7


      NIGHTMARE:
      lit up by gases that catch
      around the outside curl of the cave
      running so the wind won’t pick up
      and break

      the pythia (no python, but priest)
      assumes her duties, charges
      herself up in ceremony
      as her arms turn unearthly
      brown

      as goats and laurel branches press
      themselves into focus
      the animal is made to shiver
      from the hooves (a good
      sign)

      is then cut and its organs
      examined its liver tender
      and new as the room fills with
      the moisture of old farms
      and salt

      its body has turned desert with
      large dunes that droop
      towards the inside
      where answers might be frozen
      but born

      still-born the pythia says
      the bedrock of leaving
      is far (across seas) with no wine
      and no one to tear you back
      here

      your house will be green and orange
      you’ll say yes when a woman
      calls and when your son
      is new he’ll say no in a bitter
      voice

      you’ll no longer use windows
      to tell life from death
      but white machines that hold
      men still and whirr over their
      heads

      she folds her hands (and blood of goat
      and hot perfume are muted
      only rain over the blank volcano
      that mutters with a cluttered
      sound)