Modern History

It was nothing like mythology—you
did not appear to me in a meadow
in the body of a swan, in the shape
of a bull. My hair was unadorned
with laurel or rose;         Yes, a lick
of the sea clung to the air, hung
like a curtain or a mourning cloak,
shivered it's hem along the tops of
burnt-black trees, grazed the slats
of the painted pine headboard.       
        No god’s arrow sliced through
the silence, only the sound of the
ice cubes’ slow reduction in their glass
tumblers, only the feel of your skin
on mine—unfeathered, unfurred,
a scrabble of thorns barbing my soft
belly, the thatch of my mons, deeper.
        No, I can't recall the whisper
of your seduction, only the rasping
grunt of angry friction. The honeyed
wine was cheap and burned. It didn't
unpetal me, but tore through like a black
fire, singed a hole in my pit and you,
neither god nor man, crawled in
to claim me.        Maybe it was
like mythology— Undressed, my skin
became a constellation of purple
and puce. Every mirror I faced
was met with a body transformed—
sloped like a curse, hung like a limp
flag of conquest, blanched and waiving
under fluorescent lights. Forged
in blood and rage, my reflection
became a screaming idol, unmoved
by your name, uneffaced by your touch.


Elisa Karbin’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in West Branch, Blackbird, and The Journal, amongst others. A multiple Pushcart nominee, she lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she is a PhD candidate in poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. You can visit her online at www.elisakarbin.com.