Jul/Aug 2001  •   Poetry  •   Special Feature

Medea at the Espresso Bar

by Jennifer Finstrom

Medea at the Espresso Bar

In a parallel world I did not go mad.
That isn't to say that the seeds
were never planted, that most nights
I don't watch your sleeping head
drift down the pillow's slope
and not remember how your eyes
dance sideways over the girls
who pass us on the street. They split
around you like a herd, knowing
with a naked, captivated glance
how much of you is wolf.

But no matter. I am still whisper-
thin and raven-haired, still that dark
and smoldering thing in the shadow
of my father's chair. And so the years
have passed. We have made eight
children between us, though the eldest
two who escaped death will always
be best loved. The others are faded,
half-finished. They bend their heads
against the walls and the backs of chairs.
Poor tired flowers, only half alive.
I smell death in my two boys' hair
when I lean close, and they look at me
so trustingly, like a pair of little sheep.

On the longest days I escape that house
and sit here in the sun. My arms
blacken slowly on the tabletop
and I am free to stare for hours
into my tiny cup, into the compressed
darkness, drinking with miniscule sips
the bitter liquid of our lives.