Europa and Zeus in terra-cotta

Three Poems by James Valvis

(Please rotate your handheld device to landscape mode to provide maximum width for each line.)

Individuation

1.

predictable as a ball of string

tied to his forefinger
as a reminder

to be unpredictable

2.

the possibility in each

to forego the foreground
shadows seeping into clarity

upstaging our stagecraft

3.

the knot in lumber
imagines itself

a spiral galaxy

 

The Art of Adultery

The fog is hot and wet like the head of a dirty mop,
and all you see in the distance are icteric street lamps
lambent like firefly bodies smeared on a dark wall.
This is how you sneak up on your own apartment,
the strange truck in the driveway, the inside light on,
one foot, then another, like learning how to walk.
The truth is in front of you, if you can just look,
if you can bring yourself to wipe your eyes clean
of hope. Through the gate that creaks a protest,
and now you inch through the fog, a wired worm,
a stranger peeking into the privacy of your home,
an interloper in your own life, like someone cutting
into his own dance. You move toward the window,
as one moves toward a masterpiece in a museum,
a painting you know you’ll study for years, decades,
but for now you give yourself over to this dark art,
this moment when you caught yourself in the act.

 

Zeus as the White Bull

Gentlemen, you ask what I know
about women and the fine art
of winning their hands and hearts,

and all I can think of is great Zeus,
that tirelessly randy king of the gods,
and the odd way he wooed Europa.

There Zeus is, in his sun-filled robe.
Goats, sheep, and other cows
stand around him, chewing the cud,

big round stupid eyes staring out
at the vast rocky nothing hills
of the ancient land that someday

will be the nation of Greece,
and now Zeus spots her by the sea
picking what few flowers grow,

her face not stone like Hera’s,
her years not endless like his own,
and he changes suddenly into a bull,

and he feels his bull-muscles twitch
with desire, with godly passion,
until his pink erection reaches dirt.

So now he charges, slowly at first,
hooves and horns at a trot,
and she sees the periphery of him,

as she bends to pluck up another flower,
her arms already filled,
this white apparition galloping her way.

It is a full two breaths before
she realizes the truth
of what is about to befall her.

From here the story becomes bizarre
(if it wasn’t already) for we are led to believe
that Europa, who was somehow unafraid,

grew so enchanted by the sight of the bull,
that she climbed upon his back
and together they swam all the way to Crete…

There Zeus returned to human form,
and they made love for years,
birthing three sons, one becoming king.

And there you have it, gentlemen,
though I am not sure exactly how this story
might help you in your own dating.

Why he thought the form of a white bull
would be enticing to a young maiden
only a god like Zeus would understand;

and why that bull form succeeded where
many of our attempts have failed
only a woman like Europa would know.

James Valvis is the author of How to Say Goodbye (Aortic Books, 2011). His poems or stories have appeared in journals such as Anderbo, Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Hanging Loose, LA Review, Rattle, River Styx, Vestal Review, and many others. His poetry has been featured in Verse Daily and the Best American Poetry website. His fiction was chosen for the 2013 Sundress Best of the Net. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.

Lead image“Europa & Zeus in terra-cotta” (via Flickr user Timothy Vogel)