(b. 1949)




Body and Soul



Eye of Heart


Leda and Her Swan

Little Red Riding Hood

Love Lines


She Loves

Stars in Your Name

Olga Broumas


Leda and Her Swan



You have red toenails, chestnut

hair on your calves, oh let

me love you, the fathers

are lingering in the background

nodding assent.


I dream of you

shedding calico from

slow-motion breasts, I dream

of you leaving with

skinny women, I dream you know.


The fathers are nodding like

overdosed lechers, the fathers approve

with authority: Persian emperors, ordering

that the sun shall rise

every dawn, set

each dusk, I dream.


White bathroom surfaces

rounded basins you

stand among


hair, arms, my senses.


The fathers are Dresden figurines

vestigial, anecdotal

small sculptures shaped

by the hands of nuns.  Yours

crimson tipped, take not part in that

crude abnegation, Scarlet

liturgies shake our room, amaryllis blooms

in your upper thighs, water lilly

on mine, fervent delta


the bed afloat, sheer

linen blowing

on the wind:  Nile, Amazon, Mississippi.







The Charm



The fire bites, the fire bites.          Bites

to the little death.          Bites


till she comes to nothing.          Bites

on her own sweet tongue.  She goes on.       Biting.



The Anticipation



They tell me a woman waits, motionless

till she’s wooed. I wait


spiderlike, effortless as they weave

even my web for me, tying the cord in knots


with their courting hands.  Such power

over them.  And the spell


their own.  Who could release them?         Who

would untie the cord


with a cloven hoof?



The Bite



What I wear in the morning pleases

me:     green shirt, skirt of wine.          I am wrapped


in myself as the smell of night

wraps round my sleep when I sleep


outside.          By the time

I get to the corner


bar, corner store, corner construction

site, I become divine.          I turn


men into swine. Leave

them behind me whistling, grunting, wild.






Hell has no fury like women's fury. Scorned
in their life by the living
sons they themselves
have set loose, like a great gasp
through a fleshy nostril.
Hell has no fury.

Hell has no fury like fury of women. Scorned
by their daughters who claim paternity, wed-
lock, deliverance
from the pulsing apron-strings of the apron
tied round their omphalos, that maternal
and terrible brand. Hell has no fury.

Hell has no fury like the fury of women. Scorned
from birth by their mothers who
must deliver the heritage: signs, methods,
artifacts, what-they-remember
intact to them, and who have no time
for sentiment, only warnings. Hell has no fury.

And hell has no fury like fury of women. Scorning
themselves in each other's image
they would deny that image
even to god
as she laughs at them, scornfully
through her cloven maw. Hell has no rage like this

women's rage.





                                                         for those islands in the Aegean

                                                         whose harbors are too small

                                                for commercial lines


our muffled phone & the through-

town train,  tonight i

fuse them

in sleep as their rumble

fades, rhythmically, & another's

sound echoes, a ship's

stack, hooting

desultorily past

small hulled islands, each port a knothole

lapped shut




the water is tender, green, curls

softly innocent, a lazy noose in the sunlight

i loved you, i know

now, water swells

wood, lungs, i loved you, i go

past shallows to

sashaying algae to

prowling kelp, remote


as the harbor, no phone

or faith




love orbits

us, all night

long, your cock is an instrument

in my palm to gauge by, at breakfast you pour

the coffee, i hold

my tongue, what I keep from you


me from you, the ship

is fading, like sunlit frost, silver

gleams on our table, mugs shine

red as cranberries, blue as frostbite, i want

to hold

on, not back brave

morning's fierce tangibility-

tell you




still, by the dry light, i grow

edgy, bristle

defenses, a pine-

cone in fire


if i were a man, or you a woman, anything

would be easier than this:  one man

you, me

one woman, lost

in the shrinking summer

our breakfast done






                                           ... the sound of one hand clapping


Manita's the Queen. Love and Love

lying by her, one

on each side. I

am the Jester, the

smallest one, I roll

round the bed at Manita's feet, the floor

tangled with cast-off garments. I flick my sharp

tongue at Love. I adore


the Queen

at the foot of the bed, each hand so deep

in Love's collapsible caves. Manita kneeling

in the midst of Love.

Manita talking

with God.


Manita talking with God. God


among us, elusive, the extra

hand none of us - Love, Love, Jester, Queen -

can quite locate, fix, or escape. Extra

hand, extra

pleasure. A hand

with the glide of a tongue, a hand

precise as an eyelid, a hand with a sense

of smell, a hand that will dance

to its liquid moan.

God's hand

Loose on the four of us like a wind

on the grassy hills of the South.




I take my Love to Manita. Swift-boned, green-

eyed, dressed in her dark skin and hair, I take my Love

on fire. Manita moans.

Manita's hands


delicate as insects, agile

as fish, cool as the shifting water, the night-

quiet lake. I take my Love to her hands on

fire. She takes my Love.


She takes my Love to her passions, sweet

bruises on her dark skin, her nipples

sucked up like pears, the small

hand of God


itself again, wind

on Manita's hair. Neither

Love moves. Queen and the Jester the

merging shadows on wall and ceiling, the candle thick

as a young tree, bright

with green fire.

Manita's Love

opens herself to me, my sharp

Jester's tongue, my

cartwheels of pleasure. The Queen's own pearl

at my fingertips, and Manita pealing

my Jester's bells on our four

small steeples, as Sunday downs

clear in February, and God claps and claps

her one hand.







. . .the joy that isn't shared
I heard, dies young.
--Anne Sexton, 1928-1974

Apart from my sisters, estranged
from my mother, I am a woman alone
in a house of men
who secretly
call themselves princes, alone
with me usually, under cover of dark.
I am the one allowed in


to the royal chambers, whose small foot conveniently
fills the slipper of glass. The woman writer, the lady
umpire, the madam chairman, anyone's wife.
I know what I know.
And I once was glad


of the chance to use it, even alone
in a strange castle doing overtime on my own, cracking
the royal code. The princes spoke
in their father's language, were eager to praise me
my nimble tongue. I am a woman in a state of siege, alone


as one piece of laundry, strung on a windy clothesline a
mile long. A woman co-opted by promises: the lure
of a job, the ruse of a choice, a woman forced
to bear witness, falsely
against my own kind, as each
other sister was judge inadequate, bitchy, incompetent,
jealous, too thin, too fat. I know what I know.
What sweet bread I make


for myself in this prosperous house
is dirty, what good soup I boil turns
in my mouth to mud. Give
me my ashes. A cold stove, a cinder-block pillow, wet
canvas shoes in my sisters', my sisters' hut. Or I swear


I'll die young
like those favored before me, hand-picked each one
For her joyful heart.




Little Red Riding Hood


I grow old, old

without you, Mother, landscape

of my heart.   No child, no daughter between my bones

has moved, and passed

out screaming, dressed in her mantle of blood



as I did

once through your pelvic scaffold, stretching it

like a wishbone, your tenderest skin

strung on its bow and tightened

against the pain.   I slipped out like an arrow, but not before



the midwife

plunged to her wrist and guided

my baffled head to its first mark.   High forceps

might, in that one instant, have accomplished

what you and that good woman failed

in all these years to do:      cramp

me between the temples, hobble

my baby feet.      Dressed in my red hood, howling, I went –




the white clad doctor and his fancy claims:       microscope,

stethoscope, scalpel, all

the better to see with, to hear,

and to eat – straight from your hollowed basket

into the midwife’s skirts.     I grew up



good at evading, and when you said,

“Stick to the road and forget the flowers, there’s

wolves in those bushes, mind

where you got to go, mind

you get there”. I

minded. I kept



to the road, kept

the hood secret, kept what it sheathed more

secret still.   I opened

it only at night, and with other women

who might be walking the same road to their own

grandma’s house, each with their basket of gifts, her small hood

safe in the same part.    I minded well.   I have no daughter



to trace that road, back to your lap with my laden

basket of love.  I’m growing

old, old

without you.    Mother, landscape

of my heart, architect of my body, what other gesture

can I conceive



to make with it

that would reach you, alone

in your house

and waiting, across this improbable forest

peopled with wolves and our lost, flower-gathering

sisters they feed on.


 A comment, here                         




From Beginning with O - 1977 - Yale University Press



Body and Soul



There is a joke it goes in Greece

that summer there was a futbol

match and the husband had

lost his lady. BITCH he shouted


BITCH. Greece is civilized

the cop said call your wife

by name. I can’t the man

said. Call her name

the cop said. Not allowed

the man said. Call her name I said the cop

said if you don’t the man said in the Greek futbol

stadium he said






Stars in Your Name


All day you stare at us

who may not  touch

your weeping on your blood.



Kind, kind,

milk in the mind,

milk in the child,

child in the blind


hormone of sleep,

at night, supine

anchored paralysand,

flat as a star


soaked in the hopeful calcium

all mammals

like a prayer paging god lie down

to weep out for our young, mild


soporific milk

endure our cry

issuing ineluctable

and somewhat like a bird


in flight out of an oil spill,

a black bird that had been white,

a brother from the cratered tit,

aureoled, blue, perennial,


in orbit in the buckled sky

o soul on its invisible

tether from the dippered

water that was self, now


rise through the historical

ocean-skin that divides

the dreaming anchor from its days, each night

a nipped rehearsal for the unrequited


vessel filling, filling in a child’s

mind since the shock unfair

took it by force,

unfairly into concept,


and Justice, signal star,

tore from its center to abide

above the ferns and shelters

where in dreams a life

soars up to lick the fabled light

from its inverted triangles,

paired fairly in the sky,

glowing from our perspective


a phosphor that might nightly heal

the hole in the clay

flowerpot and brim

the unknown nourishment that balsemed


angel with open eyes, untarred

and gleaming-feathered, lets

our solace be your







Eye of Heart


Because I was whipped as a child

frequently by a mother so bewildered

by her passion

her generous hunger she would freak

as the swell of her

even her love for me

alone in the small house

of our room by the Metropolis and fling me

the frantic flap of her hand as if some power

in me to say I want brought the unbearable

also to the lips


and as it didn’t hurt

nearly as much as her distress

imagined it and set the set I grew up longing

for consummation as she did

beyond endurance

tenderness acceptance of the large

insatiable that grows so small

and grateful if allowed

its portion of sun


so that the images that led me down

the spiral of forgetting self and listing

like a phenomenon in the grip of its weather

dazzling or threatening but free

of civilization were the links

whereby her terror

made good its promise to annihilate

my will her will I couldn’t tell

the difference then as now

when making love I can

breathe in forever on that rise

indefinite plateau whose briefness

like an eye in unself-conscious and the sphere

of the horizon its known line.






She Loves


deep prolonged entry with the strong pink cock

the sit-ups is evokes from her, arms fast

on the climbing invisible rope to the sky,

clasping and unclasping the cosmic lorus *


Inside, the long breaths of lung and cunt

swell the vocal cords and a rasp a song

loud sudden overdrive into disintegrate,

spinal melt, video hologram in the belly.


Her tits are luminous and sway to the rhythm

and I grab them and exaggerate their orbs.

Shoulders above like loaves of heaven,

nutmeg-flecked, exuding light like violet diodes


closing circuit where the wall, its fuse box,

so stolidly stood. No room for fantasy.

We watch ourselves transform the past

with such disinterested fascination,


the only attitude that does not stall

the song by an outburst of consciousness

and still lets consciousness, loved and incurable

voyeur, peek in. I tap. I slap. I knee, thump, bellyroll.


Her song is hoarse and is taking me,

incoherent familiar path to that self we are wall

cortical cells of. Every o in her body

beelines for her throat, locked on


a rising ski-lift up the mountain, no

grass, no mountaintop, no snow.

White belly folding, muscular as milk.

Pas de deux, pas de chat, spotlight


on the key of G, clef du roman, tour de force letting,

like the sunlight lets a sleeve worn against wind, go.


                                               * umbilical cord.




From the book “Perpetua”, in Olga Broumas, Poems 1975 – 1999, Copper Canyon Press, Port Towsend Washington 98368, 1999.  ISBN 1-55659-126-8



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