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Minyas’ Daughters
                        (from Ovid’s Metamorphoses)

I understand their no when all of Thebes
runs frenzied, crying after Dionysus. They love the loom—

                                    I woke from a sound sleep at 3 a.m. whimpering
                                    “I don’t want to.” Don’t want to what?         

hypnotic shuttle of threads rising and falling, greeny-
gold and burnished purple flowers unfolding on the loom.

                                    Don’t want to scrape it down to bone. I have done
                                    enough damage with desire for one lifetime,

They love the sister-bond of stories, one girl’s leading
to the next, gods embracing maidens, lust and loss and gloom.

                                    and what is “the Dionysian” anyway: the stiletto-heeled
                                    staggering-drunk underage girls hanging on to each other

They love quiet and to work. But this god demands release.
Outside, the streets run red. Cries of orgy vex the room.

                                    laughing and shrieking as they stagger from one bar
                                    to the next Thursday nights on the Square,

The weavings turn to vines, blooms to bulging grapes; sweet
scents of myrrh and saffron, and crimson flames consume

                                    or the sex on torn couches back at the frat house?
                                    Why would a god command that? Ghazals express

all reason—spurned, the god makes wild beasts howl, panthers scream,
and turns the girls to bats: they judder, squeak, in twilight gloom—

                                    a longing for ecstasy and God, and I long for ecstasy
                                    and God but only partly. Like Minyas’s daughters

Still, till night comes Minyas’ stubborn daughters will be weaving,
their voices drifting softly back and forth across the room.

                                    I love quiet and to work.
                                    So this is a broken anti-ghazal ghazal.



                                    The animals slip from life
                                    like loose hair from a braid.

Pearl on the bathroom floor still lifts her head but can’t eat, can’t drink. Nefertiti I have thought of sometimes looking at her, small elegant gray cat with long pointed ears and triangular head. Foundling seventeen years ago, one damaged place in her side where she never could grow more than downy underfur, one gimp leg. Already the fur on her leg has been eaten away, her flanks have collapsed, the frail bone cage of ribs is all that holds her two sides from touching, yet she purrs against my hand.

                                    Outside, through the night, cicadas
                                    chant the seconds, minutes, hours.

In your heaven for cats accept Pearl who loved half-and-half and kippers, who does not fight nor seem to fear her death. Let it happen quickly because her waiting opens out like a desolate gray sea, she cannot get better so let her go forward. Let the wet earth enter her and return her flesh to the roots and stems and leaves of bamboo and privet and wild pink roses. Let the temple of her bones resist a little longer. Yet that too will return to mud and ants, the filaments of roots, then to light, then at last with everything that is, to emptiness.

                                    Her paws curl against each other.
                                    Her hollow belly with the little patch of underfur rises, falls.  


Ann Fisher-Wirth’s fourth book of poems, Dream Cabinet, was published by Wings Press in 2012. Her other books are Carta Marina (2009), Five Terraces (2005), and Blue Window (2003). With Laura-Gray Street she coedited the landmark collection The Ecopoetry Anthology, which Trinity University Press published in 2013. Ann’s work has appeared widely and received numerous awards and prizes. She teaches at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the Environmental Studies minor; as well, she teaches yoga at Southern Star Yoga Studio in Oxford, Mississippi.