there was a woman. There is always a woman,
a sum of parts: hair, hand, breast.
Then there was a river,
the water over stones immaculate
despite the mud banks. Shore-reeds whispered
to one another of the woman,
nude, wet, and dark as the earth
the water caressed.
If she lived
today, she’d sing “Unchained Melody,”
mouth the perfect o
of a skipping stone. If she lived
today, she’d hide the planes and ridges
of her form in soft green grasses,
because her mother always told her
to be modest.
Tonight, my husband forms an o
lips pursed over pan pipes. He plays
earth and wind and water old as creation
in each breath, and I remember
a story old as creation, a story my mother read me:
Syrinx’s arms frothed with sweat,
and legs hot as worked horses
pushed her to the water’s edge, where the reeds
kept the memory of her songs. Pan, pursuing
threw back his head and howled.
Her sisters made her delicate limbs hollow and green,
easy for the wind to carry, a grounded bird
and buried her by the river, where she roots
This is how I first heard of a man
taking a woman, cutting her
and fashioning her into an instrument
to be called upon for music, to sing
I’ve hungered for your touch a long lonely time
when touched, whether she means it
Chloe Hanson has recently been featured in Calamus, Stirring, Contemporary Verse 2, and Pretty Owl, among others. She is the Literary Arts Director for Sundress Academy for the Arts and the Assistant Poetry Editor for Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts. She loves beer, dogs, and The Partridge Family almost equally.