“Medusa’s Defense” by Jennifer Donice Lewis

Jennifer Donice Lewis


What was my sin? That my father, Phoebe, never taught me to swim?
That’s my alibi, our reason, and I told anyone who listened
that I’d sat like a buzzard surrounded by desert while my sisters swam.

They’d been taught by a foreign man who didn’t give a damn about
the laws, mixing of senses, or my sisters sweet complexions
that hadn’t met the sun. Yes, I was the only one.

But I’d heard them talking. Blue water, copper and chlorine—
touch that sexy trio, and your hair turns green.
So, I handed Percy the mirror. But he’s the one who found my father’s clippers.

“I’ll keep the scarf on. They’ll never know,” I said, when
my African locks fell from his hand and bounced across the bed.
Then the next day played out like our lives weren’t meant to end,

because boy, could Percy swim. And when we walked into the Y,
we were just two guys. Our bodies hidden beneath skimpy cloth, and
I’d tied a ribbon on what was left on my…“Medusa!” a classmate yelled.

“Athena saw us,” Percy said. I ran so fast that
my wet feet slid across cement as if they were glass.
Why? The fear of stoning, boys and lies, that’s my new alibi.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009
Tribute to African American Poets

Rattle Logo