Author: Martha Oliver-Smith

my stepdaughter paid
a hefty price for you
in Park City
at the Yoga center
where she learned techniques
of balance and peace.

Traveling together
in a rental car
through Mormon country to Montana
photos show you riding shotgun
safe in your seatbelt
or posed
brass flame fanned and gleaming
on the hood.

In the Bitteroot Mountains
did you remember
your ancient self—
god of wind and death—
when you forgave nothing
as you razed the world to ashes
with arrows and

sacred hitchhiker,
passing through the western bible belt
where Jesus forgives
radio hosts, mortgage bankers
the carnal sins of Christian pastors
who are then reborn
again—just as you,
are always
born again.

I ask you Shiva,
what draws this girl
who will not forgive our trespasses,
to you?

Do you not Shiva,
as you tread
upon the hapless demon,
lift your other graceful foot
high in joyous dance,
and signal us
shrouded in the ashes
of our transgressions
to make the world anew?

The queen and her handmaid have gone tragically to the girls’ bathroom—
keening—eyes streaming
Today is Jessica’s turn to be queen; next week she will be an attendant.
Then it might be my Courtney, Ashley or Jennifer who plays the monarch betrayed.
I teach Oedipus right after lunch.

The crowd is not moved by his suffering—they are merely impatient
with a man forewarned who would kill his father, marry his mother
(who must have been by their calculations at least 40)
and produce four children—by—mistake—how gross!
I entice them—pander to them—conjure images
of gouged-out eyeballs hanging in strings from bloody sockets.

But Crystal and Jessica have gone to the bathroom.
Their script is all about love betrayed—while destiny
drifts like fog in the halls.

When they are gone, the other girls look knowingly at one another.
Gravely, one speaks for the chorus—a strophe:
“Jessica has personal problems.”
Then another: “Her boyfriend dumped her—”
The boys look away or down, fearing reprisal—accusations of complicity.
“I see,” I say.
They think me totally blind.
The chorus goes berserk with shrill sounds
anatomizing the queen—antistrophe.

Clearly we are studying the wrong play.
What flaming garment will be woven in the bathroom
for this witless Jason’s new queen?

“Stop!” I speak imperiously—I am curious of course.
I always want to hear their stories
even though I know how they will end.
But my role in this play is merely prophetic—
my fate
to go unheeded.
I glare into the restive crowd
with eyes wide as the entrance to Hades.
“Ladies, Gentlemen, open your books
to Jocasta’s desperate speech
“Tis best to live at random, as one can…”