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Guest Poet Chris Tusa

Middle School Medusa

Like some shimmering bronze goddess
she slips through the air-conditioned lobby
of The Sherwood Forest Country Club,

dripping wet in a yellow string bikini,
past the black marble fountain and the plink
of pennies, past bamboo baskets

of ferns, the gaping red mouths
of poinsettias, past the pink light
of the pinball machines

where Puerto Rican men breathe
from their cigars, their slurred voices
rising like smoke—

through the swinging glass doors
that lead her outside
into the sweaty cursed air,

where she drifts like gossip,
white ribbons swimming
in the brown waves of her hair—

past the crinkle of candy wrappers
and the hiss of soda cans, the boys
in blue speedos who stare at her

from the snackbar, their faces blank
as stone, past the swollen sun-streaked
stomachs floating across the pool,

the gaggle of girls who gawk at her
from their inner tubes,
who imagine themselves squeezed

into her tight yellow bikini,
their own smooth, tanned legs
propped atop the lifeguard's boombox,

their own shiny manicured fingers
snapping to the new, hip song
that none of us knows.

October, 2002

Chris Tusa's questions:

Does the comparison to Medusa add complexity to the poem? Or, does it simply distract the reader?

Does the poem end too abruptly?


According to Roman mythology, Io, a river nymph, had the misfortune of being subjected to the lust of Jupiter, who, in an attempt to avoid the rage and jealousy of his wife Juno, transformed Io into a heifer.

I would have expected an owl
with yellow eyes to haunt the air.
Maybe a cheetah crouched
against an orange horizon.
A crow opening like a black flower
in the trees.

Instead, I spend my days
in this thistle-tangled field
sweltering in the sun
beneath a red sky twisted
with black branches.

You cannot imagine the awful
buzz of horseflies.
The daisies with their rusted
mouths. The dull eternity
of horses. Their purple tongues
licking the air.

At night, the eyes of Argus
blink in the trees.
Black waves of wind roll over me,
flooding the field.
The air cuts at my throat.
And my eyes drown in dust.

The only comfort I know
comes when I think of Juno
swimming through the flames
of my voice. The brilliant
swell of blues and reds.

Nothing left except
a black cloud of smoke,
a hole in the sky
drifting across the horizon
like the charred memory of a god.

October, 2002

Chris Tusa's questions:

Is the voice believable?

Is the separation between the fifth and final stanza awkward?

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