SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Penelope Complaining to Her Mother by Paula Persoleo

He’s nothing but trouble, always has been.

You’d think a man might change after

all he’s been through. But no, came and left

—his favorite method—like twenty years

was twenty days. All that excitement over

an olive tree bedpost, then the wanderlust

replaced his other lust. And I’m supposed

to lock myself up, like I hadn’t tried that before.


Who am I supposed to be, the perfect queen

or the perfect wife? The mistress of the house

or the mistress of the town? He told me

about the other women—goddesses, sorceresses,

he couldn’t help himself, it’s all their fault

but I have to sit here and wait. Let no man enter.

Too dangerous for me, a woman, even one

craftier than her loudmouthed husband

(who can’t help but give himself away

every time) while I outwit the nitwits eating

all the food in the house—like they owned the place.


Maybe he’ll stay gone this time. I’d like

to think in peace for once: maybe meditate

or make a hot yoga room, practice haiku,

unlearn weaving. Build a new bed for myself.

Paula Persoleo is a 2011 graduate of Stony Brook’s MFA program in Southampton, NY. Some of the poets she worked with include Julie Sheehan, Thomas Lux, and Michelle Whittaker. Her recent work has been accepted by Gordon Square Review, Philadelphia Stories, Panoply, Into the Void, Not Very Quiet, and Habitat Magazine. She is an adjunct at the University of Delaware and lives in Delaware with her husband.

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