Iowa Writes

VINCE GOTERA
Leviathan


My friend Janine has a tiny terra cotta
serpent made of arches, loops of red
fire-hardened clay. When you set up

the curves in a row, a line on an obsid-
ian table-top, let's say, or any other
shiny surface, water-like, what you get

is an illusion, mirage, fantasy — a dotted
stitch sewn by your eyes: four small arcs,
at one end (rising) the head of a velociraptor,

at the other (diving) the tail of a rattlesnake.
On this coffee table of dark stone, a mirror
clouded by years of creosote mist, Loch

Ness breached by mesozoic shimmer,
coils of a beast that should have been long dead.
St. George, England's patron... it was him or

this monster, devil-vermilion-scaled ophid-
ian champion. Chalk one up for good Sir George.
Or is this Quetzalcoatl? Feathered god

My friend Janine has a tiny terra cotta
serpent made of arches, loops of red
fire-hardened clay. When you set up

the curves in a row, a line on an obsid-
ian table-top, let's say, or any other
shiny surface, water-like, what you get

is an illusion, mirage, fantasy — a dotted
stitch sewn by your eyes: four small arcs,
at one end (rising) the head of a velociraptor,

at the other (diving) the tail of a rattlesnake.
On this coffee table of dark stone, a mirror
clouded by years of creosote mist, Loch

Ness breached by mesozoic shimmer,
coils of a beast that should have been long dead.
St. George, England's patron... it was him or

this monster, devil-vermilion-scaled ophid-
ian champion. Chalk one up for good Sir George.
Or is this Quetzalcoatl? Feathered god

dipping in and out of clouds, a large
pterodactyl-winged, emerald-eyed
messiah. Or Poseidon's messenger, the huge

sea-snake sent to devour Andromeda,
killed by Perseus, conquistador of the Gorgon.
Whose hair was made of small snakes, dread-

locks each exactly like these curls of auburn.
The sea-dwelling Orc the hippogriff-riding
Ruggiero bested to save Angelica. The Kraken.

The Basilisk. The Wyrm. Treasure-heaping
Wyvern: Grendel's cousin, Beowulf's fate.
Geryon, snake with scorpion tail, winging

Dante downward into abyss. Bahamut.
The Giant Anaconda. Ouroboros.
Dragon, dragon, dragon. But no, it's not

like that. It's just a little hocus-pocus,
a parlor trick. Just a sea serpent
of brick-red, kiln-fired curlicues.

And yet, she must also be a Titan
somehow. Somewhere inside the terra cotta
smoulders a small flame of a Leviathan.

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


VINCE GOTERA

Vince Gotera edits the North American Review and teaches at the University of Northern Iowa. His poetry books include Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, and Fighting Kite. Vince wrote this in response to "Robert Lee Brewer's Poem-a-Day Challenge" for National Poetry Month (from his Poetic Asides blog sponsored by Writer's Digest). This is a terza rima poem in sprung pentameter.

This page was first displayed
on March 01, 2012

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