Mudlark Poster No. 9 (1997)

Donna Frazier

Antiope Bound, Unbound | Quiet

"My first glimpse of a real poet," Donna Frazier writes, "was in a lounge of a dormitory at the University of Colorado. I'd found my way into an open workshop with William Matthews, who spent much of every session reading to us. I remember sitting mesmerized, listening to Neruda's 'Ode to a Tomato'--so even the commonplace has this magic--and watching smoke drift from the end of another of Matthews' chain of cigarettes. Poets looked like wild creatures to me. I recognized something in that wildness. Became a journalist, kept writing poems, stopped writing, or so I thought until I realized that there were always poems in the never-ending notebooks. I write poems because I love, and because I'm alive, and because nothing else satisfies me as much as the great leaps of sound and sense that are possible in a poem. (At moments, it's that extravagant a feeling.) In the poem that looks like my life, I work as a ghost writer, just moved from L.A. to N.Y.C. and am working on a book about beginnings." E-mail:


Antiope Bound, Unbound

"Antiope was long held prisoner, but one day
her chains fell off of their own accord."

    --New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology

Handprints on my skin. I've forgotten how to pray.
Count the feathers of a bird, count the ways
you know to cry. The men they say are gods
are old drunk fools.

Mother appears to me in a scrim of yellow cotton.
I see she has the body of a goddess,
curved and wide, as father stands back, admiring her.
I am naked, she says. There is nothing
they can take from me now.

I wake again bound,
knees and elbows the tipped hinge of hips;
what looks like collapse is a tightening coil,
muscle on bone angled like wood for fire.

But in a wind of dust and camphor
a voice blows through me.
Torn words, then words of bright green flame,
sun's copper burning and these chains:
a memory of sons, my body broken, a yellow dress.
I empty my silence
even of rage.

They say I escaped
as if by miracle, but I will tell you the miracle:
I cut my throat open.
I set myself free.



A girl runs down the street, dusk
a bell ringing, hot air behind cars
where a man wiggles his fingers
in a greeting meant for a child.

White flashes at the edge of her vision,
how quickly they slip into her.
She remembers him
before she sees his face.

His hand swallows her,
pins her beneath these quick fingers,
their friction hot, her fear
pressed into the cool of her back,
her thighs, this quiet
run at dusk, the stars beginning to pierce,
the phone ringing behind screen
door slaps the jamb, her quiet hello.

It is simple as that, no telling, no
drama except what she can see in fragments,
shavings of that fear, a man so large only
the parts pressed close to her eyes in those
same quick flashes begin to make
no connection, yet she knows.

There is something in her face now, the milky
glaze of his smell inside her, in her
nostrils, the way the quick movement
of birds, squirrels, disturbs her, so large
that mark, a dream of snow
in dirty summer air, soot on the crystals
as they lose their edges.

She is old now, the smell of fear so much like
the sweet pink perfume she dabs from a bottle
stenciled with flowers. The words
vibrate in her throat. She is
a quiet girl. A quiet girl.

Copyright © Mudlark 1997
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