My mind was venom-fanged, an animal
gnawing every thought into pulp.
My body was misshapen,
a lump of damp clay.
I wanted the earth to open its maw.
Then I put on the mask with its hard
and empty eyes. I could see before me
a field stretched out, serene and bare,
with no stars above, no streams or water,
no woods of shadow and thorn.
Yet a crowd had gathered there,
their arms hanging at their sides,
their mouths refusing to speak.
They were waiting for something,
and only I could show them.
The first gods were made out of fear.
Let the air agitate into wind.
Let the leaves tremble from their stems.
I will show them one wound, then another.
They can ponder my intentions in them.
Note: Some of the phrasing is from W.H. Auden’s “Shield of Achilles” and Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura.
Jonathan Minton lives in central West Virginia, where he is a Professor of English at Glenville State College. He is the author of Technical Notes for Bird Government (Telemetry Press, 2018), In Gesture (Dyad Press, 2009), and Lost Languages (Long Leaf Press, 1999). He is the editor of the journal Word For/Word (www.wordforword.info).