- The Prophetess
—In Greek mythology, Apollo promised Cassandra, the beautiful daughter of King Priam, the gift of prophecy. When Cassandra spurned Apollo's advances, he cursed her never to be believed.
The slightest breeze becomes a voice, a message on the air. I neither wish for it, nor want it gone.
It settles over me the way that darkness falls— a veil upon a bride. The visions shake me every time.
I see the faces of the strangers in the marketplace and recognize in them the forms they do not know
they will become. The man who holds a garment like a book across his open hands, who folds it tenderly,
a wedding gift, will pass nine months unspeaking to his wife until, two days before his daughter's birth,
his wife will leave him, loudly, just outside his shop, the shadow of an awning cutting him from waist to feet.
A woman buys a terra-cotta bowl and in my mind I see her pouring water in the basin. Both eyes closed,
she leans above it, cups the water in her hands and lifts them to her face. The water is a mirror
writhing under her, her gaze distorting, mouth and eyes, her cheekbones and her teeth. Her hair
descends around her face so that the tips of curls submerge into the bowl like quills into an inkwell.
What I see, I cannot help: her lover's hands around her throat, the way she tries to turn, to call his name [End Page 48]
as stillness enters him, some silent beast, and falling from the table to the floor, the terra-cotta bowl.
At first, I tried to speak of what I saw. The more specific I became, the more the listener would disbelieve.
I saw the fall of Troy, the wooden horse, the sight of Paris, naked, stepping from a shroud.
The more the strangers turned from me, the more I learned to trust the visions I received.
There's power as the dispossessed. My name became a curse. Now, men and women part before me
like I am their queen. The air around me is a chariot. My robes are flames, my words a long-forgotten tongue.
Jonathan Fink received his BA from Trinity University and his MFA from Syracuse University. He has received a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and his poems have appeared in Poetry, New England Review, TriQuarterly, Slate and Virginia Quarterly Review, among other journals. From 2003 to 2006 he was the Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry at Emory University. Currently he is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of West Florida and the editor of Panhandler (www.uwf.edu/panhandler).