This poem wants to be an ode

As a Jewish child who was also female I loved Portia
—and, like every other Shakespearean heroine,
she proved a treacherous role model
. —Adrienne Rich

This poem wants to be an ode, to sing. Sing how you master each scene, praise how you arrange your own marriage despite a dead father’s constraint, how you tip off your love with a musical clue so he picks the right chest and chooses: you, a prize. This poem wants to applaud your clever court disguise, your elegant plea for mercy—though you show none, a bloodless stone. This poem aches to appreciate your power, you the dead man’s savior, and regard your ring trick with delight, the way you trap your love into giving the ring he promised never to part with. It wants to say, Quick-wit wife! This poem longs to pour wine libations at your feet and cap your crown with laurels, sprinkle pale petals where you pass. But your temple’s defiled with ash. This poem itches but cannot scratch. It ends with holocaust and a cordial of tears. A net with a lamprey catch.

Dayna Patterson is the Managing Editor of Bellingham Review, Poetry Editor for Exponent II Magazine, and Editor-in-Chief of Psaltery & Lyre. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Hotel Amerika, North American Review, The Fourth River, Literary Mama, Weave, and others.