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

Sigiriya Rock Temple

I. Last Monologue of King Kashyapa in Which He Praises His Finest Work, 5C

“My city is guarded by five hundred goddesses,
each one is a jewel dug from clay.

No one sees the goddesses without desire.
A man may be lost forever
dreaming of their pale red mouths and blue shadows.

I have built a city near to heaven.
My enemy will never understand.

They were my harem.
From villages I saved them, from the underworld
beneath the trees; mothers and fathers gave them to me freely.

The maidens praised the artists who captured them
in frescos on these high cliff walls.

Praise me: I have made them immortal.
My home is this city near to heaven.
Goddesses: protect me from my enemy!

A man may be lost forever dreaming of his enemies.
Watch over me, o goddesses,

I have built my city to rival heaven.”  

II. The Defacement, 1967

A monk looks at the ancient frescoes—

he feels a pulse
fast as the blackout
of desire

The almost naked
goddesses, platters of mango
about to fall from slender fingers

A goddess’s smoky chime of bangles,
her nipples like orchids
in wet heat

Someone calls to him, he believes, a bhikkhus, 
master from the sacred ranks of monks,
the ONE among many

From the pail, he lifts a heavy broom and sweeps—
smothers us whores with tar

Swallows, too, foul the rock face with streaks

III.  The Goddesses’ Song  

we goddesses                                          we dance with birds
we are the words                                    written on leaves
we are gods                                             mothers of gods
we mother                                               we give birth to the gods
we are                                                     gods’ eyes

lovers come closer                                 here with us forever
we are your sisters                                 flow of water   of leaf
we are your lovers                                   rain    leaf   rice
read us                                                     arm   breast   belly
sail with the swallows                             our eyes   your eyes

below us                                                  you who made us
you who read us                                      we are fresco   we are rock
you preserve us                                       do not deceive us
we live forever                                         do not defile us   
call the swallows                                     shade our witness

call the wind                                            night protect us
the rain blows in                                      night oh protect
the sun beats                                             and rock protect us
god’s eyes                                                flute   drum   chime
our names                                                rain   rock   rice

Abigail Wender’s poetry and translations have appeared in The Cortland Review, Disquieting Muses Quarterly, Epiphany, Kenyon Review Online, New Orleans Review, and other journals and anthologies. Her translation of a selection of Iris Hanika’s Das Eigentliche (THE ESSENTIAL) was published in Asymptote. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and lives in New York City.