Self-Portrait as Semiramis

Mary-Kim Arnold
Had I been raised by doves
wouldn’t I have learned
to fly
 
By wolves
to hunt in packs
 
Had I been raised by gods
wouldn’t I too
be godlike
 
In the movies the orphan
is the killer
not loved enough
unwanted
 
But wasn’t I
most
wanted
 
My mother
fish goddess
dove into the sea
for the sin of loving
a mortal man
 
I love a mortal man too
 
At night I coax him
from sleep
rousing him
with my mouth
 
By day
we build high brick walls
around us
        	  our Babylon
 
Had my mother lived
to see me rise from this boundless
deep
        	would she recognize me
as I have grown large
and my arms have become
the long arms of the sea
reaching over
        	         and over
                                	     	    for the shore

Related Poems

Self-Portrait as C-Section Scar

When I’m happy I can smile twice at the same time. 
So thin—a marker-tip line with a waxy shine—
a vein of a maple leaf, a dog’s upper lip, arm of anemone.
Of all the magical plants and animals in the sea,
the hagfish is the most unpopular, the most horrifying—
the one that makes children burst into tears. And if that
isn’t enough, she is the only fish without vertebrae,
so she can literally tie herself into a knot to bulge out
and pop the small mouths of fish that dare try to eat  her.
Don’t you admire her clever slip and wriggle? Don’t 
you think her nerves are left a little more electric
after she is caught? Sometimes if you put an ear
to the dark slash between my hip bones, you can hear
a soft hum. Pretend it’s a skit of bees in late spring.