Friday, February 21, 2014

Search Party

A foreign tourist was reported missing in the volcanic canyon Eldgjá after she failed to return to her tour bus. She had changed her clothing during the stop and her fellow travelers did not recognize her; nor did she recognize the description of herself. She took part in the weekend-long search before realizing that she was the one “missing.” Iceland Review, 8.28.12

She went looking for the one who was missing.
The brightly weak afternoon light
panned all live and inanimate shapes
sieving finer and finer golds from deep red-browns.
She kept her head down
in case a key, a ring, an earring,
bronze moss rubbed wrong, the living nap
imprinted with a misstep.
She had so little to go on: a woman, young,
dark-haired, not from here.
All weekend they walked the old wounds
of the volcanic canyon.

If you must search for yourself
go missing in a place where fire and ice
carved battle scars in water and rock.
Venture up to the impassable place
where water falls.
Make no assumptions about who is lost.
Examine the terrain as if your life depended
on it: not the fissure, the molten,
but long-cooled evidence
of who we've loved and what we’ve seen,
the black glass, that mirror too dark to read.

The Believer  May 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Medusa Cuts Her Hair

Something in the curl wants out.


You think you know something about love,
have a clear idea of your own value.
Then your friends stop speaking
when you enter a room, turn a cold eye
on your antics, your pleas, your parting curse.


Lately, I’ve let myself go.
Strange thoughts spring from my scalp.
They have a life of their own.

I think about striking out, striking back.
I think about curling into a knot,
and never encircling another again.


What is it I keep hearing,
in waking and in sleep?
Little voices, secrets, fears.
Every wish I ever had, every hurtful
word I’ve said.
They do not leave, but hiss in the head,
weaving together until they sprout anew.
There are lies caught in my locks;
memories of happiness, too.


He said he was a hairdresser,
would trim my tresses
by looking into a mirror.
I agreed to keep my eyes lowered.
Think of it; the snip of scissors,
a strange man’s fingers,
oil of aloe, henna, citrus.
Nervous, his limbs jiggled;
I fell in love with his legs
as he circled my chair.


Where is the man who cut my hair?
People tease me, say I’ve lost my head.
Now, the world softens under my stare.

from Orpheus and Company: Contemporary Poems on Greek Mythology, Deborah DeNicola, editor (University Press of New England, 1999)

Thursday, November 28, 2013


According to a 1993 press release from the Butterball company, a woman called the emergency hotline on Thanksgiving day to report that her pet chihuahua had jumped into the cavity of the family's turkey and was stuck.

He is of the desert, a tumbleweed tuft,
scrap from some great cactus combing its hair in the wind.
His too-bright eyes recall the fervor of pilgrims

crossing parched earth; his acute lament
like the shriek of cicadas on their one afternoon of sex.
Who dares point the finger? The wisest

among us has fled the safety
of hard ground. After we are swallowed whole,
we ask: how shall I hide my nakedness, how shall

I surface? When we look up, all we see
is the temple of the ribs, that holy cave. This is the tender trap,
the place where the heart lived. Here we can swim,

really swim, in the idea of love.
The heat of happiness lingers in every cavity.
The sound of it: thump thump, thump thump: keeps

time with the breaking waves,
with the schools of fish like schools of hearts,
drifting through the sea, drifting through the nets.

Now comes the huge hand of destiny,
squirming through the opening like a giant squid.
This is it. Just when we think we’re stuck, we're caught.

( Believe It or Not)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


They were the kind of girls
who smiled into the face of the Sun,
closed eyes against its flaring touch –
the tip feathers of the giant swan
just brushing their nape.

I find their skirts in pieces
on the ground, red and yellow,
torn from their sides as they ran
from the Gods’ hot glance,
tried underbrush for camouflage.

In gathering wind and dark
I look up from my rake.
Someone dashes past: half-clad,

still in the chase, her fleet life
before her, almost out of reach.

copyright Jean Monahan 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Tower of Morning Glories

You have to save yourself.
A blue face in every window looking out.
Climb down the green dark,
let your blue skirt break
your fall. Some dangle
upside-down. Some are waiting
for you on the ground.

2 Bridges Review

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

First Death in Winter

New snow’s made our yard
a white slate, a Winter tale

written out in shorthand.
Where deft paws notarized a path

to the trees, our weighted bouquet
of New Year’s balloons

wind-dragged across. Here,
something stepped softly and left

no mark, no clue. I turn my attention
back to the table where you sometimes sat.

Week-old white tulips sag in the vase.
When I carry them to the sink

the spent petals fall to the floor
like an unbroken line of footsteps.

Solstice Literary Magazine April 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


High in the weir
of a tree’s bare
the half-moon flops
like a trapped herring
betrayed by the beautiful tide
that carried it here.
It struggles to work free
breathing harder
with every smack
of its bright body
against the shallows
and I can’t remember
the last time
I was full
of light

appeared in the Winter 2013 issue of Orion