Themis, goddess of judgement; The Ascension of Cleopatra Selene; Artemis...
By Mimi Silver
Themis, goddess of judgement
Morality is a thick-skinned snake
she shifts in shedding a wide coat
variably blind or sided, she must weigh cost
play with the order, time filled hours
once fair but now faded with nature,
trial, trial, trial sits above gods,
she decides all
Oracles douse eyes in oil and foresee that
a woman who vomits future is not impartial
Eunomia sees no man more worthy than his past,
Erene will eat her absurdity, consider old wounds history
peace will devour a mother’s love, pray for her son
justice will fall faced with such softness,
who is a woman over a future?
daughters will nod to shake an understanding
that will heave their bones inside out
The Ascension of Cleopatra Selene
Pay no mind, coins stick to shoulder blades
molasses bubbles on caramel leather
her own skin stretched tight on bones
dries in Caesar’s August sun,
a season named for virile heat
her moon curls itself from her mouth
drops deadly on the street
vomited syllables from Greek tongues
flicker with spliced forks
asp drowned again, she does not cower
she will be a daughter of queens and emperors
even cherry pitted and stinging
twin hands release her
webbed, mucus stained, foreign
kohl lined down to waist but blurring
hieroglyph of an answer drawn thick
her mother still yellow and liver swelled
father still bloated in the underworld
Helios breathing heavy in her ear
teeth catching hisses or enamel
chains bury her fingers in metal
wrapped around in a cobra cradle
weighted under flashing eyes
beauty invokes sympathy as corded
as a rope, tied as tightly to waist
cloth, even thrown, will stick crown-like
burying the hordes of fortunes on her spine
virgin goddess of childbirth
I come out of the womb wet but forming
pulling myself with thin fingers on moving land
if Hera says I may not be born on earth
perhaps the winds may take my poison
Delos will make me a crib of mosaic
a corpse’s island of my father’s stains
we three women keep moving
beating the ocean in time with my aunt’s heart
Leto the unwilling, Asteria now island
titans who fled a god with quick hands
and a wife with cruel lips, transformed
to deliver each other, the other, and now me
I deliver my own twin and women pray
pray to my child limbs and small fingers
which save and catch infants, though
I see them just as stained as before
they talk about Apollo’s hands, his lyre
things he does to make music
I string my bow wishing the sound louder
melodic, see, an arrow kills with a lovely tune
I am full of choices I’ve made, belly swollen
mother made none and she still caverned
aunt made many and she is now stone
crawling as slowly as continents may
More than my mother, despite my father
I will not be hunted in the woods
neck stretching from branches that won’t bend
my feet will be movement through trees
A silence in the night to hold the hands
of mother and infant as time rolls
under the chariot pulled suns
moon I birth from virgin folds
Mimi Silver is a Canadian poet and lyricist. For the last 5 years, Mimi worked as a spoken word artist in Vancouver, competing in both individual and team national slam poetry championships. Since her recent move to Ireland, Mimi has been committed to completing her MA in Creative Writing, focusing her thesis on feminist revisionist Greek mythological poetry.
Interview with the Poet:
Cathexis Northwest Press:
How long have you been writing poetry?
I honestly can’t remember a time before I wrote poetry (depending on your definition of the term). My first published poem was in a local library anthology where I wrote in full rhyme about wanting to play football in a dress or something. I don’t own a copy of the collection, so if that poem is ever found, I think it would qualify as blackmail-level material.
Can you remember the first poem you read that made you fall in love with poetry?
Blue by Carl Phillips. It was the first poem that made showed me it’s better to feel the emotions of poetry than understand exactly what a poet intended to say. I reread that poem at least once a year and always find something new in it.
Who are your favorite poets? Any specific poems?
Oh, like everyone else I am an avid fan of Ocean Vuong. I don’t believe there is currently another poet in the public eye with their finger so firmly on the pulse of what it is to be human. Anne Carson and Moe Clark both changed how I thought of poetry.
Can you share for us a little bit about your writing process? Any specific rituals that get you in
I’ve had various approaches to writing over the years, as I find my motivations and inspirations to write have to evolve, or I stop creating. Currently, the process is to read for a period and sit with the words to see if inspiration comes. A friend recently gifted me a collection of essays by Alexander Chee. The pieces fill you with so much language and emotion it would be hard not to feel responsive.
How do you decide the form for your poems? Do you start writing with a form in mind, or do you let the poem tell you what it will look like as you go?
Choosing or creating the form of a poem is always a separate, secondary process for me (unless I’m writing a prose poem). Still, I usually make decisions on form in my earliest stages of editing. If I write with a form in mind, the flow of the language is often compromised.
Any advice for poets who have yet to find their voice?
If you’re writing, then you have a voice, and that voice will continue to change and settle into what you need it to over time. That said, if you ever become fully satisfied with your work, what will push you to keep writing? If you were to write the perfect poem, what else would be left to say?
What is your editing process like?
Long. I need time to put the poem aside so I can be ruthless in my edits. I have to consider what the poem is actually saying rather than what I thought it would say, which can be hard to let go of.
When do you know that a poem is finished?
It may be a cliché, but is a poem ever finished?