Before her head reeked of scales and dripped venom,
her beauty made her a target.
Thousands flocked to the temple
just to get a glimpse of her.
It’s not her fault that the sea god,
wet, and sticky with seaweed,
saw her glittering like a prize
and then hunted her like prey.
As she lay bleeding on the floor,
among the gritty sand and shells on temple marble,
she knew her beauty was her curse.
Athena’s intervention was the gift;
she gave Medusa weaponized flirtations and gazes
to hunt men like the prey she used to be.
The stories talk about the tragedy
of Medusa’s transformation, but
women know the real curse was before it.
Her beauty left her vulnerable—approachable.
Now she’s a weapon; she will go down fighting
if necessary. She won’t smile and nod like
another pretty face or un-plucked flower.
She’s a hornets’ nest tired of being kicked around.
That’s why we paint her crown of snakes
over the doorways of our
women’s safe houses and shelters.
That’s why her name means,
“Guardian,” and “Protectress.”
That’s why she spared the men her teeth
but never her eyes.
Her gaze traces the clouds of those
dark lonely streets and
even those brightly lit havens.
If you’re quiet, sometimes you’ll
hear a hiss, or see a flash of green,
and know that it’s her,
waiting for the guilty men and hunters
over doorways of dusty marble…
Dottie Higgs is a writer currently studying English, creative writing, and French at Mississippi State University. This is her first publication.