Home > Poetry > On a Greek Vase
Published: Wed Jul 1 2009
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
On a Greek Vase

Below the rim, a citizen carries a penis
detached from his body

and so big its head could be the thumb
of a god about to stub someone out.

But then you notice foreskin-folds and a vein
running river-like to the base

where a little spade-shaped bag of skin hangs.
Once this is clear—prick not thumb

you see what the man carries
is a burden: his calves flex

against the black of the old clay.
Left-face, shoulders square,

with the affect of the empty-handed,
he’s moving forward

as if the pretense of another purpose
could lighten this load.

Marc Woodworth is the author of Arcade (Grove Press), a collection of poems, and Bee Thousand, a volume in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of books on seminal rock and pop albums. He teaches at Skidmore College and is associate editor of Salmagundi. (updated 3/2009)

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