Poetry - Gail Holst-Warhaft

Memorials by Gail Holst-Warhaft


The best are not by design:

a dome left whole at Hiroshima,

a stopped clock at Skopje,

the high-water mark in New Orleans.

These are what wrench the heart.


Monuments meant to mourn

for all instead tend

to distract the mindís eye.

They planted a garden for my son

but itís the scar on my belly that aches.





When Demeter reached Eleusis

the women in charge of the mysteries

plied her with food and drink

but she was still sick with grief

for her lost daughter, Persephone,

and the earth stayed cold and dark.


The women wanted Spring

to bud the almonds, dust

the earth green, wake

lust in their chilly limbs.

If only they could make her

take a bite, a little wine.


But her tears poured down

and the women grew tired

of consoling. One called Baubo

had an inspiration: she lifted her skirt

and out of the grieving goddess

came a laugh like a donkeyís bray.


Thatís all we know of Baubo;

she made Demeter break her fast

by baring her fanny. Why

it was funny is not in the story:

just a woman raising her skirt,

a laughing goddess and Spring rekindled.




Goddess on the Half Shell
Scallop, comb, and cunt: one Greek word
served for the shell whose open halves
revealed the goddess of love, Aphrodite
kneeling between its pin-striped valves,
the comb whose teeth the scored
shell mimicked, and the soft elastic
flesh. On the shellís fringe
a row of eyes glittered like a necklace
for a princess or the goddess grown inside
the closed wings of the  pecten jacobeus.
Queen of the beach, Andipatros called her,
and of the bedroomís salt exchange.
She led ships safely to shore
and hearts to shipwreck on her shell's edge.
"Don't break my spirit!" cried Sappho

knowing she had the power.