Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Cyclops

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Cyclops

Article excerpt

My grandfather's right eye was a frozen slab

of milk-white ice that light never thawed

and when he slept, the lid didn't drown

the curse of its constant stare.

Look at it long and you'd be salt, stone

fear's hard form. And look we did,

though we blinked against its spell, the worm

or ray or evil thread of its insistence.

I'd watch him read with half his face alive

and the other like a tool, oiled, hanging

from a hook as if you could take it in your hands

and make it work, but you couldn't.

The eye that saw the words counted money,

lit his pipe and bet on horses at the track.

It measured out his evening whiskey and led him

to the thresholds of our rooms to say goodnight.

O, calm, wheel-eyed giant, you might have tamed us

had we let you hold our hands the way

you wanted or stood beside you closer

when we looked into the sun and forced a smile.

But your hands were colder, more distant than

your gaze, and standing in our doorway your head

was like a moon, vast and disappearing,

occupied by all its phases and so we tried

to pass unseen, unknown even as we sharpened

and heated the stake of our revulsion

and plotted when to thrust the smoldering tip

not into the eye that roved and guided

but into the one that monitored the smoky,

ice-stung realm inside your skull. …

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