Lesson on the Greeks



My student opens Tattoo Magazine and shares—


I don’t know what to say about these things

why a man turns his back

into canvas and asks the tattooist

to prick his skin until it bleeds

until like film in chemicals

Cerebrus, the guard dog of the Underworld,

appears between his shoulder blades

ready to pounce on his next kill.

I want to know what woman wishes

to wake up next to this fierce creature,

this cannibal, this carnivore

staring at her with his six fluorescent eyes.


How can I speak to my students of beauty

or symmetry of Greek temples?

I counter with postcards of vases

graced with black figures of the gods.

She dismisses all antiquity


and dreams of young boy’s tongues

and does nothing to hide

the desperate purple marks

polka dotting her neck.


Will it ever matter—

            the leaving of lovers on Naxos

            the small boys outwitting numerous monsters

            Heracles killing snakes in his crib


when a decade from now

ziplocked in fringed leather

and poised on a Harley,

she will wedge herself

behind her tattooed man

pressing her breasts

into the open mouths of the terrible dog.



                                                                 Kathleen Willard