Four Poems | Patricia Nelson

So Many Serpentine Monsters


This thumb-wide, hissing spine

grew fatter as you slept.


A crooked line now slips

across the daylit stones


and lifts the blue light

in a swaying mouth.


Pause your thudding boots,

your bright-red, stumbling heart.


Let strangeness taste you

with its split gray tongue.




Calchas to Agamemnon


                            Calchas was a seer in the service of the Greek army. He predicted that the Greeks

                            would not win the Trojan War unless Agamemnon gave his daughter to Apollo as

                           a human sacrifice.


With white and hissing breath

I’ll nudge you to the story’s end.


I too will touch your murders,

slide over them before they happen

like a blind, complicit eye.


This first murder, which the gods demand,

requires both your horror and your honor—

two winds as cold and contradictory

as your unlovely gods.


But something must be excised

from the size of your war

or its correctness


for your victory to be just

as the gods imagined it.




Serpent in the Garden of Eden


Could they have done otherwise?


Temptation came upon them as

the bloom goes through a daisy.

It combed them softly with a color,


seemed to make them brighter

without changing how they know

or what they could say.


And what did it matter anyway?

How far could they go

and how much could they know?


These newly shiny things

with a large amount of innocence

and a minor love of truth.




The Recent Dead


I stand among the recent dead.

We lift our hands, hold out

our souls like small black stones.

I sense a fall, a cost.


Is this the place where

we are told that we are lost?

That the world grows

wider by our absence?


What rises from our palms

like prayer or a scent of roses?

One sadness, brief

among the longer truths.


Photo by Pravin Bagde on Unsplash


Bio: Patricia Nelson has been published fairly widely in literary journals, primarily in the USA and UK, and has been nominated for the Pushcart. She has a fifth volume of poetry, Monster Monologues, forthcoming from Fernwood Press in 2024.

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