The following poem appears in Consequence Magazine, Vol. 2, Spring 2010:

Penelope unravels

I see her again on her bench, a woman
who never seems to be anywhere else
but here, in the subway station at the end
of the line. She reminds me of that
painting by Millais of the Lady of Shallot,
whose stare is far-away and near-dead,
whose mouth is agape and just about
to wail, or just finished. Her eyelids and
her lips are puffy and pink, and so is her nose;
her orange hair is long and stringy, uncombed
and dirty. She is tragic and strange, and I am

transfixed by the vacant intensity of her. She knits
every day, but never makes an inch of progress
with the intricate sequence of knots she’s always
looping and tying off. If she is exasperated
by the low yield of her fidelity, it never shows,
only the exhaustion of the single-minded who

suffer an unrelenting muse. She sets her work
in her lap from time to time, I’ve seen her
do it, lets her hands fall at her sides and rest,
knuckles cooling on the thick lacquered board
beneath her, while her palms lie open-faced
and upward, seeming to need to breathe. If
the lines in her hand tell a story, it is full
but inscrutable, a scribble of bad turns and
ill-conceived detours, a story in which she
is not the tragic hero, but the one who waits,
intended to stay and worry after someone else
who left her and has not yet come back.


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