Venus Lamenting the Death of Adonis
Benjamin West, 1768
I want to be the swans, looking on
from the shadows, calm,
not the woman bent in grief,
her dress falling from her shoulder
like skin peeled back from meat,
not the dumb baby—Cupid—
chin on cheek as if contemplating
his designer disaster—the slain
waif in an Abercrombie pop-up
suddenly on my screen—not even
the crack of blue sky and sun
in the way, way back beneath
the boiler-plate of brooding clouds,
the one rowdy kid at the back
of the bus—No. I only want
to be the swans. To be two
at once. An Us. Two beaks.
Two necks. A twined heart.
Not me and another
lover, I mean me and me.
One to give up and log out.
One to trumpet in the re-boot.
One to hiss and grunt and flap—
the other to tuck in, blinded, mute—
The author of From the Belly (Sibling Rivalry Press 2012), Virginia Bell won Honorable Mention in the 2019 Poetry Prize from RiverSedge and won the 2020 Nonfiction Prize from NELLE. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in Kettle Blue Review, Hypertext Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Gargoyle, Spoon River Poetry Review, Poet Lore, The Keats Letters Project, Stirring, Rogue Agent, The Nervous Breakdown, Voltage Poetry, and Blue Fifth Review, among other journals and anthologies. She is an editor with RHINO Poetry and teaches at Loyola University Chicago.