Mary Alexandra Agner

"Minerva" is written in a hypermetric blank verse:  the familiar iambic pentameter with an additional unstressed syllable coming at the end of each line.  Ending with an unstressed syllable is often called a "feminine ending" and I wanted to use it consistently in order to mimic the subject matter in subverting patriarchal assumptions.

"Crone Feathers" is a villanelle of laziness:  I stole the repetons from a rhyming couplet by Emily Dickinson. Too lazy even to find sufficient words to rhyme with "echo" I simply repeated it in each tercet, trying to use it differently each time.



Crone Feathers

     –  with lines from Emily Dickinson's No. 454

To take the name of Gold
in vain: gull screech, an echo.
The difference made me bold
enough to Midas-hold
feathers, wax, their echoes.
To take the name of Gold
I pierce my skin, unfold
my light, become my echo.
The difference made me bold;
I leave my nest for old
wisdom or its echo.
I take the name of Gold.
Crone or crane? Behold
what wings I wear, their echoes
of difference! Make me bold
in flight, in life cajoled
from future dives that echo:
take the name of Gold,
the difference makes you bold.




Sprung fully formed, they say, the spitting image
with spear for stand-in phallus and an owlet
to hold my wisdom, since my little female
noggin couldn't hold the liquid measure
itself, of course. The model for Pygmalion.
No childhood. No teenage angst to foment
rebellion toward my elders, the dish only
a man would serve his father with. An action
figurine with blunted blade and buxom
behind and hips. No mother and no sisters.

Father, you never asked if I had longings
exceeding your narrow-minded need for power.
Indeed, you never knew that I was more than
another arm until you sought persuasion---
the kind that women work---as part of warring.
But I am more than limb or lips or message
delivery girl when I take nymph or man
into my bed. I've found a strength, not anger
or intellect; to share without surrender.
I have stepped out from under your long shadow.



Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets. She makes her home outside Boston. To learn more about her please visit .