~This poem previously appeared in Georgetown Review (2008).
Peeling Psyche Off the Wall
So we make the same mistakes and so does she: losing faith
in her lover, listening to jealous siblings, holding the candle
too close, spilling the wax. We can’t stop ourselves, neither
can she. But no ants come to sort our grains, no birds
to pluck the fleece from the thorns by the riverbank, no song
of Persephone’s to hum us home from the hell we’ve created
all on our own. Betrayal is a dusty toad, sitting in its lumpy truth.
Let her be, you say, setting her down in the gritty sand
to kiss the toad, to seal her fate. We knew this would happen.
We knew it all along. But now the ants are back, birds aloft,
the road to Hades darkening with Lethe’s sleep. Look,
she stands and loosens her garments against the heat
of his mother’s rage. Beauty suffers, but beauty lives.
The soul reaches for the lost one, but where? For us
here in this empty room, we hold her threads,
we see her colors, we feel the weight of stones
moving where once our hearts lived, once we loved.
Over and over, we peel Psyche off the wall, help her
stand, begin again. We are the ants, the birds, the fleece,
the thorns. Our redemption is her immortality.
~This poem previously appeared in Folio/A Literary Journal (1992/93).
The Butterfly Syndrome
A theory, a natural phenomenon
How one butterfly, in China say,
flutters her night-blue wings
and days later whipping rain
and black wind assault wheat fields
in Nebraska. The subtlety
of cause and effect the chaos
of insects and breadbaskets,
the swirling space alive
between them. I hesitate
before turning a page of this book,
not in fear of an evil
wind I might conjure in Beruit,
but in wonder the hush
before it all. A sparrow’s
silence, a leaf turning without wind.
Something makes me look
over my shoulder when nothing
is there. Nothing: subatomic squirrelings,
neutrinos and photons, the particles
of this unknowable invisible
void. I sit immobile
beyond the speed of light,
at once forward, backward, past
and forever present, book open,
THE STORY BEHIND THE POEMS
Various drafts of “Peeling Psyche Off the Wall” floated around my head in summer 2007 in response to the Georgetown Review’s contest theme on “redemption.” With a deadline of November 15, I figured I had time to explore possible narrators, including Psyche’s jealous sisters, Cupid, the ants, the birds, and even Venus herself. None worked for me. The day before the deadline, I had a pile of pretty paper, but no poem. At work the next day, Psyche’s handmaidens, her servants at the castle offered their side of the story. I typed out the poem as I heard it in my head and rushed across the street to the post office before closing time. That was an accomplishment in itself. Then, in about three weeks, I received a personal note from the editor, saying the poem was one of 20 finalists and would be published in the spring 2008 issue. His staff had considered more than 600 poems in that contest. This myth is a life changer.
After more than two years in the MFA program at American University, I spent my last semester there working on my thesis. I had several short stories and two chapters from a novel. One of my thesis advisers, Richard McCann, recommended adding a poem. “The Butterfly Syndrome” eventually received approval from the thesis committee, and the poem also won the Folio Award, chosen by Billy Collins, our visiting writer. The poem appeared in Folio’s spring 1993 issue, and I received a check for $75! Since then, I’ve tinkered with the poem, turned it upside down, removed words, added words, but in whatever iteration it’s in, I feel myself sitting in that chair with the wind of the cosmos blowing over me.
ABOUT MEREDITH POND
Born in Rhode Island among the sand dunes and quahogs, Meredith Pond now lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, a nuclear-free zone full of aging hippies, consenting adults, and clean, bright, creative children. Meredith has called this town home for more than a decade. Her home away from home is Baja California Sur, in Mexico, where she spends some weeks each winter watching humpback whales leap from the Sea of Cortez, and petting gray whales in one of the sheltered birthing lagoons on the Pacific side of the peninsula. Meredith wrote her first poem, “Leaves,” in third grade. Many years later, Beltway Poetry Quarterly published her poem, “Nobody Here,” in a special issue dedicated to Langston Hughes. Recently, her fiction has appeared in Gargoyle magazine, Gravity Dancers: Even More Fiction by Washington Area Women, and Kiss the Sky, an anthology edited by Richard Peabody on Jimi Hendrix. Meredith studied English literature as an undergrad in the late 1960s at George Washington University in Washington, DC; then 20 years later she earned her MFA in creative writing from American University in the same city. Most summers, she signs up for poetry workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Currently, she is working on an uproarious Baja novel, On a Dark Desert Highway. Visit her at www.meredithpond.com.