Reinvention of a Gorgon by Raegen Pietrucha


I. Institutions 


If there’d been a Heaven, 

it would’ve known my name

without a label round my wrist.


There’d be more than a glass of water, 

bed white as a wedding. My wish missed. 

My eyes have reopened in a different room 


of the same Hades I always knew. How silly, 

to believe there could be any other version 

of eternity. The truth is clear as this water 


taunting me, trapping that ghastly face 

in its glass, framing my mangled nape— 

now just another mouth taped shut. 


In what can the silenced place any faith?


A new voice must first be heard to be cure.



II. Hematologic


If I follow this vein, 

my neck will remind me, 

some words are not so easily bled. 


Resurrected, my head surges 

again, serpents curling 

through my red electric, 

burning my circuits hot. 


I was loved not. But isn’t the scar 

worse than the raze that blazed it? 


I envy the beasts that make their way 

onto my plate; they bleed just once, 

and the blow ends their story. 


But a life as more than meat may render

a chance for you to sever a tether. 



III. Dialyze


All I hold are broken clues, 

bruises and blood to patch instead 

of glue. The book has implied Forgiveness 

divine, as if that act can mend, render anything 

re-intact, but forgiving these snakes would divide 


me in two. Into further forfeit. For my memory runs 

thick and deep as blood; its heat can’t be 

so easily snuffed. Forgive, that book 

would command. But see my 

lack. Of sheer capacity 

for. Giving that.  


Strip this fiction of its grip by lifting

your eyes from the page to the sky while you

seek the gift no one can take or take back. 



IV. Vantage Point


When my eyes try 

to gaze high, they espy 

only the snakes that have named me. 

I’ve nearly forgotten the blue

that trains the waves in color 


beyond this cage 

and bolted gate.

When I unfold 

my wings, they strain 

to lift this serpentine weight. 


But you cannot access a new view perched

in the same place forever. To wander 

beyond this confine, you must fortify 

all facets of you with the skill to fly.



V. Flight Manifest


I once dared to imagine a light 

bright enough to illuminate the space 

between me and freedom. From my isle, 

I thought I saw a route across, thought each word 


of this wish could be a dash of a path 

marking the way from this sand to new land, 

each letter a feather that together could lift 

me above and beyond even the vastest abyss. 


But isn’t this figment? 


What if you ditched the blinders, sought your light? 

Why choose to keep dwelling in the darkness 

of the snakes’ den, permit them to constrict 

you? Set new sights; look again in your glass, 

shimmering like a shield. Haven’t we met?



VI. Refraction


My face seems to blur, 

warped in this space. Am I 

above or beneath this water 

oscillating? Did my vision 


tunnel too long 

through the dark dirt 

of the serpents’ burrow, drain 

from the constant, singular gaze? 


As eyes see differently by day than night, 

you too can dilate to view beyond sight, 

glimpse within and outside. Connect the right 

plots. Aim to see more than scales and fangs.

Another face awaits—one you have had 

a hand in crafting, choosing now to seek. 



VII. Acuity


What’s divided me 

from me? I search but can’t find 

the latch to this mask, can’t spot 


the seams where the snakes bit and split me.


I see I’ve barely 

belonged to me. But what 

is a bound, broken bird left to be?


Think a girl lives who hasn’t been damaged? 

Anything can fracture a fragile wing; 

a grounded bird still attempts a flutter. 

Why not strive to mend and alight, enter

heavens of your own creating? A new  

kind of flight might unwind the serpents’ clasp,  

transform you from a captive to captain.



VIII. Steeled


My fists wish to curl against 

the world of these serpents, but I can’t grasp 

their slick scales when I drag my brasses. 


What good are these hands 

if they can’t rip the villains 

from my recesses? 


If you sift with them instead, you can search 

the debris, separate gems from sand. Hands 

can break but do better when creating— 

taking an old gray stone instead, turning 

it to lead and neutralizing old guiles 

through acts these crafters have sharply chosen. 

The only way to escape his story: 

pen your own, reclaim your territory.



IX. Smithing


I don’t know where beginnings begin.

I don’t know if I can birth one. 

I don’t know who can be fashioned from fragments.

I don’t know what to call such a woman.

I don’t know how she’ll be fortified. 


But are you willing to play such a role? 

Are you willing to try to rectify? 

Are you willing to forge an unknown whole?     

Like faith, let’s commit to this blind striving.

Like lightning, let’s strike our terms in flashes. 

Like fire, let’s melt to bridge the divides.

Like a phoenix, we’ll cast off the ashes.

From a core eager to molt the old dust, 

we’ll shape a new woman because we must.



X. Tongue-Tied


My tongue may flail, straining to split 

the shackles of these incessant hisses.


So I will start with this nib.

Instead, I will deploy this writ.


A wave may redouble before it breaks,

its sound deafening—but then it dissolves.

And every snake must brumate once the sky

settles into its winter grays. Once gulped 

in their smothering gullets, now these words 

appear and stick to the page. Not all those 

who’d sound use their mouths to speak. Here words stretch 

beyond body, soaring with their own wings.  

Songs can stream both from fingers and from beaks. 

One doesn’t always need to speak to sing.



XI. Unfolding


Once upon a time was never mine.

Even before the time I first woke,  

that lie has stuck in my throat.


Now I know how the old con goes: A snake 

will spin and twist as if these small gestures 

could be innocent. But then the scales stretch, 

the breadth expands, the corps contorts before 

the strike—our parts carved out before our eyes

can even guess which direction we missed.

The deceit is deliberate, leaves us 

dazed so other snakes can sink their way in,

flood us with more of that brackish poison. 

But I know now too, once you grasp the trick, 

then you can begin to dismantle it.



XII. Water Shed


I know what it is to be broken by others, all parts beaten 

and lost to another’s, as if ocean rules the sand it casts.   


And when I realized it had, I wept. 

But when I wept, my tears split sea’s surface, 

and I claimed that throne, became god of salt,

water, shapes, sounds, failing, falling, rising 

again. I broke that ocean with a rage

I couldn’t contain. Now it undulates 

with my tongue, delivers a hymn binding

all other sound to it, even the birds 

overhead. Some men thought they’d be able

to rule this water forever, but none 

can stop this sound. When my ocean first spoke,

the serpents nested in my head recoiled.



XIII. Loosed


I no longer place any faith in the fables of snakes. 


Belief in such claims rendered me a slave.

Only cold blood runs inside that villain;

he raided to drain all heat from his slave.

It’s true that he did invade this body; 

he couldn’t retain the mind of this slave.

He’ll never touch an ounce of me again,

never again taste the meat of this slave.

I didn’t have to part to crack his trap; 

skin hinges to stay intact, not enslaved.

Now I see he couldn’t really steel me; 

I’ve forged this new gun for a former slave.

My target is truth, and I shoot to save.

I aim for it with the words that I made.



XIV. Ginosko 


Dust dances in the sun now, so tiny 

the air meets it as sea, and the grains gild 

the leaves of my plants. As I water them, 

I recall how a woman I once knew

used to keep strings-of-pearls just like the one 

I now have. It struck me so suddenly, 

finally feeling one of the tendrils;   

despite the distance, she and I shared life; 

I might just be tending to her garden. 

Then, I recognized his world would persist

with its spinning; I recognized not all

our sisters have been able to seize peace;

I recognized countless questions remain, 

with answers I must continue to seek.</p

Raegen Pietrucha writes, edits, and consults creatively and professionally. Her chapbook, An Animal I Can’t Name, won the 2015 Two of Cups Press competition; her debut poetry collection, Head of a Gorgon, is forthcoming with Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in 2022; and she has a memoir in progress. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, where she was an assistant editor for Mid-American Review. Her work has been published in Cimarron Review, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. Connect with her at and on Twitter @freeradicalrp