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gorgon + metamorphic

Poetry, Larkin Ellis


i wonder how medusa felt when she was murdered.

see, we’re supposed to think that she’d feel relieved, i guess, think that she

was bound for so long with those snaky tresses, that gaze of stone that

somehow, perseus striking her head from her shoulders was almost a merciful act.

she could not be beautiful, could not be safe, but she could be dead.

and then in death she was useful after all, in some horrible twist of irony that should be delicious but

instead lingers rancid in the mouth.

i’m not going to ask whether medusa liked being a gorgon, or think on that. not today.

it’s been said before, i think–was the curse that turned her from maiden to monster a blessing in disguise?

freedom from the gaze of the male, power over the patriarchy, killing heroes with her sisters on a rocky island–aspirational, really.

it’s all very rebellious, that view, subversive in that way that is still safe because

in the end, she still dies, still meets her end on the edge of the sword because yes,

obviously, it has to be a sword.

we can afford to be charitable because she’s punished, medusa,

the tragic heroine, avatar of feminine fury, liberated woman who fucked a god in a temple–beheaded and mounted on a shield postmortem like some avant-garde big game hunter’s trophy.

have our cake, eat it, too.

but no.

i wonder what she thought, medusa, during those last moments, wonder what she saw.

i wonder if she smelled the salt of the aegean, the faint odor of fish,

the sweat of perseus and herself.

i wonder if the glare from the water ever made her head ache.

did she feel the bite of the blade as it severed bone and muscle and fat and tendon?

could she taste the metallic-coppery-sour tang of fear just before the blow landed?

i don’t know.

sarpedon was was her island, close to lesbos. i looked up pictures of the waters that surround greece, and it was blue and clear in all of the promotional adverts.

i hope she saw blue, medusa–the blue of the sky, of the water. i hope the stones were warm but not hot beneath her bare feet. i hope that flowers grew deep in the crevices of the rocks, hope that they nodded in the seaside wind. i hope that her sisters were as kind to her as the gods were cruel.

i wonder what she hoped for.



i was born in fire when his ancestors were still squirming in the mud,

old before men found fire and gods and bloodshed.

the aegean ebbed and flowed eons before they came,

and called the land paros, planted pickaxe deep.

now he calls me ‘child’, takes my hands in his,

my dear my precious my beloved

my galatea,

so unlike the rest

(carnal women, all)

he is always talking, my husband, always staring,

his tongue yammers on the purity of marble while his hands wander, impure.

but as he twitters in my ear i think of mountains

and of the glaciers crawling over them

of rocky crags looming over a wine-dark sea

of the fire, womblike, in which i rested.

with each sunrise he offers roses to his goddess

and each evening i pick up the withered petals

place them outside

with the eggshells and wrinkled grapes and rancid olives

and all else that is rotten.


Larkin Ellis (they/them) was born and raised in Appalachia and stuck around for college. They now exist in a fog of existential dread somewhere in New Mexico, where they live with their loving partner and a dog who’s mostly composed of elbows and nose.


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