Everyone’s trying to get into the act,
but who would have expected an ugly beast
like him to croon like a Latin lover?
His eye winking tearfully, such a deep unexpected blue,
his fierce engorged head bent over
to elicit sympathy, his matted body,
kneeling in proposal, less massive than anybody
would have guessed. An almost elegant act,
pleading his case, his fertile land spreading over
two hillsides, sheep and goats galore, not the beast
you’ve heard about. She sits dreaming by the blue
sea, barely attentive, her heart set on a different lover,
a young shepherd bent on pursuing her. Love
in her eyes sits playing, he’d sing, seeing her body
barely covered, imagining the rest—an operatic blues,
perhaps, by Handel, right in the first act
when all is fun and games, before the percussive beast
appears. It’s Cyclops, raging, melting, burning all over:
Don’t think me unsightly, a lamb has wool all over,
birds have plumage, trees have leaves, surely a lover
of them can love me. If I were a just a beast
could I offer you plums and cherries? Everybody
envies my shaded dells and groves—why do you act
like I’m not worth your time? Still she blew
him off, remarked his one eye was not nearly as blue
as claimed, and waved her shepherd boy over–
hesitant until it’s clear in the final act,
he faces competition. Now he’s the arch-lover,
and she swoons and spreads for him, entire body
opening. She will never ever allow the beast
this access, and yes, this is place where any beast
would grab a rock, not stopping at black and blue,
in wild agonized rage, to smash at least one body.
a satisfying end? We should, perhaps, think this over.
Cyclops, seeing such fervent, such feral love-
making, in this version, disappears into the act.
Leonard Kress has published poetry and fiction in Massachusetts Review, Iowa Review, Crab Orchard Review, American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, etc. His recent collections are The Orpheus Complex, Living in the Candy Store, and Braids & Other Sestinas. He teaches philosophy, religion, and creative writing at Owens College in Ohio.
Artwork: Odilon Redon, “The Cyclops,” 1914, public domain.