Pythoness by Jennifer A. McGowan


You never really get used to the taste
of laurel leaves, you know?
That hard green bitterness
which leads to ecstasy, divinity,
and a steady income.

The first time I sat on the tripod
suspended over the chthonic rift,
I said You must be joking.
Never so uncomfortable, and the cloying smell!
Now, said the elder,
you see why we rotate.

Years later, hair unbound
and eyes streaming—my first time in public.
In front of me, two bodies all scraped knees
and clasped hands, asking
How can we conceive? We all fall still,
listening for words.
I chew another wad. Eyes stare and hope.

And then I get it. You don’t
put your ear to the ground for a sun god.
We’re here to listen
for the roots Daphne sprouted
when she escaped, burrowing down to Persephone,
who understood. Their knowledge
cracks the earth, becoming steam
no male sky can carry.

This is our secret.

Another secret is that compassion can mingle with truth.
I look at the twining hands.
Words come.


First published in Acumen.

Jennifer A. McGowan obtained her PhD from the University of Wales.  Despite being certified as disabled at age 16,  she has published poetry and prose in many magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Rialto and The Connecticut Review.  Her chapbooks are available from Finishing Line Press, and her first collection is forthcoming from Indigo Dreams Publishing. Her website can be found at

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