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Ben Morgan: a poem

Perseus Looks Back

After Perseus cuts off Medusa’s head in Sarpedon, the land of her exile, he uses it to save Andromeda from a seamonster, before becoming king of Mycenae.

I no longer keep you in the state rooms

where you hung blindfolded,

a fatal chandelier, Mycenae glowing

reckless bronze behind you –

though the sight of your red locks

and still-fresh neck

brought every mercenary to his knees.

It was the mottled, fraying bandage on your eyes,

and the way its tendrils brushed your upper lip,

as if into wakefulness, or joy.

Sometimes, when everyone had gone –

Andromeda, the courtiers, the slaves –

I would blow out every candle in the room.

Your ruined moon lit up my empty kingdom.

And I would stand below you, face upturned,

as if the grey-green light were waterdrops

and the dreamer inside me were thirsty.

Tonight, I sit down beside you,

my hand, the glad hand of a diplomat,

no warrior now, against your lips.

If you have something you want to say to me,

the word you never spoke that day on Sarpedon

beneath the pallid double of the sun,

say it now, as I pull aside the gauze

and see you at last entirely.

Ben Morgan is a poet and academic based in Oxford, UK. His first poetry pamphlet, Medea in Corinth: Poems, Prayers, Letters, and a Curse, was published by Poetry Salzburg in 2018. It retold the famous myth through poetic letters, spells, prayers, sonnets and songs, as well as theatrical interludes. He has also published poems in Oxford Poetry and in The Sunday Tribune and The High Window. He has taught Shakespeare studies and early modern literature at a number of colleges in Oxford and is completing a monograph on Shakespeare and human rights for Princeton University Press.

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