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  • On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial, and: Early
  • Linda Pastan (bio)

On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial

We invent our godsthe way the Greeks did,in our own image-but magnified.Athena, the very mother of wisdom,squabbled with Poseidonlike any human siblinguntil their furious tempersmade the sea writhe.

Zeus wore a crownof lightning bolts one minute,a cloak of feathers the next,as driven by earthly lusthe prepared to swoopdown on Leda.Despite their power,frailty ran through them

like the darker veinsin the marble of these templeswe call monuments.Looking at Jefferson now,I think of the languagehe left for us to live by.I think of the slavein the kitchen downstairs. [End Page 20]


Despite her delaying tactics, she would still be morbidly punctual.

Yael Hedaya, Accidents

I am never merely punctual,I am always early. I waitin doctors' offices, on the thresholdof some pending grief. I waitin expectantly empty roomswhile upstairs my hostess casuallyscrews in an earring.

I am early for trains which haven't yet lefttheir previous stations. I pacethe platform under a clockwhich moves its ancient handsonly by stealth.Think of what I could dowith all the squandered minutes

I spend just standing aroundrereading the face of my watch as ifit had more than time to tell:how many letters I could write-thank yous for some oldbut neglected kindness,love letters full of longing.

On nights when you arriveprecisely on time, and Ihave been waitingprecisely twenty minutes,I can't help being angry."Morbidly punctual?" I thinkshe must have meant morbidly early, [End Page 21]

meant someone like me, afraidof being late and missing my life.I ride another barstool to nowhere,memorize the Braille of another pavement,already practicing for my death,wondering how longit will keep me waiting. [End Page 22]

Linda Pastan

Linda Pastan has published twelve volumes of poetry, most recently Queen of a Rainy Country. She is the former Poet Laureate of Maryland and was on the staff of the Bread Loaf Writer’s conference for twenty years. In 2003, she won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.



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