The Chimaera: Issue 2, January 2008

Mary Alexandra Agner

The Right Word

Homer, ascribed a human heart
and certain male-only parts,
couldn’t tell us the color of Helen’s hair.
Hardwired from optic nerve to there
and all the romance from his lips
was siege and swords and ships.

The Beowulf poet, the scholars claim
was also male, but his hero’s fame
required a mother from the deep:
bereaved, description incomplete.
All the consonants he choked out
were terror and chaos and unholy rout.

Such beauty defied adjectives?
Such horror defied adjectives?
Two sides of a face they could not name.
Poetic device blurred their shame.
What kept them mute? It wasn’t tears.

Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets. Her poetry appears in North American Review, Boxcar Poetry Review, Isotope, and other magazines. All her life she’s observed the universe and written about it. She can be found online at