Cynthia Kraman
How Poetry Began

vidi ipsum materno sanquine nasci (I saw him born from his mother's blood)--- Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book V

"I saw the horse born from his mother's blood,"
Minerva mentions to Urania,
laying her helmet on Mt. Helicon's
grass, spangled with flowers. She refuses
a cold drink from one of the Muses
passing her muscled forearm through the spring
struck open by Pegasus' sharp front hoof.
She drips its water on her sunburnt neck.
She feels in her goddess thighs the long trek
and remembers, unwillingly, that wreck.
That upright torso. And there was the head
hissing and spitting from a distance. Snakes
writhed around two bright shocked eyes. A red mouth
like a rosebud wailed against ancient teeth
uttering nonsense; she saw how beneath
the hero hand, it hung like a sausage.
It kept calling for its lost body, blood
leaped up from it, fell into the lagoon---
smoky, sulphurous---something winged soon
writhed out of all the gore and rank ruin
of the Gorgon---a great winged, white horse came
sauntering here...Pallas opens her eyes.
"I cannot bear," she says, "to miss a song
from dear Calliope. Let's not wait.
The art's already begun; she is late."

© 1995 by Cynthia Kraman

Cynthia Kraman is the author of three collections of poetry, Taking On the Local Color, Club 82, and The Mexican Murals. Her work will appear next in The Paris Review.