By Sarah Burchart
1st Place, Poetry, Create | Encounter 2022
Steel smiling wide,
drowned in a spare basin till Saturdays.
Charon enters to take his sickle on a voyage again.
Together, they roam the sovereign zone,
passage through the Styx already paid.
The sickle wavers, as if recalling when
his edge collected a better harvest.
He murmurs a tale to himself to get through the rough tide,
weaving and scraping together
what he deems worthy of an Athenian monologue
or being retold on terracotta urns.
Far better to pull up roots now
before a sprout was scorched by Hera’s ire
or choked into Zeus’ plaything.
He beckons his newest handmaiden Lamia
to bring more poppies to the altar
before Alcmene wakes and weeps.
I was inspired to write this poem by thinking about how much ancient Greek myth consists of violence passed down through generations and placing the violence of abortion in that same context. Human sacrifice, infanticide, war, and revenge appear as the proposed solutions to the problems of gods and mortals only for cycles of pain to tragically continue. The speaker is so concerned with his own justification that he doesn’t stop to think that the death he enacts will do nothing to curb Zeus’ future violence against women or heal Hera’s already-present rage. The tragedy is emphasized further with the cameo of Lamia, another victim of the gods who in a happier story might find comfort in confiding with Alcmene but instead becomes an accomplice to death.