Hannah Fries lives in western Massachusetts, where she is associate editor of Orion magazine.  She is a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, and her poems have appeared in journals such as Calyx, The Cortland Review, upstreet, and faultline. On Libation: “Earl Grey in the morning, of course, with milk and honey. A crisp Sauvignon blanc on a warm summer evening; hot apple cider with our own Berkshire Mountain Distillers' rum when the leaves start to fall.”

A Poem by Hannah Fries

Photo by William McCullough

Pygmalion’s Girl


I.


I had no childhood, don’t know what it is

to grow, only to be made, to emerge whole

from a man’s imagination. 


You might say I’m lucky to be crafted

by my husband, because he is bound to worship me,

or if he sees any flaw, it is his own and of his making. 


I think, when he holds me,

how he must have carved my breasts to fit his hand,

how he brushed the dust from my tiny nipples,


ran his tongue around them for good measure.

And he gave me a navel, though I had no use for it,

and the dust collected there


as he worked my hips, gripped

what he imagined were the bones of my pelvis. 

He made my feet just a little too small,


like dolls’ feet, so I teeter when I walk. 

The first time I stood, I toppled,

so gracelessly, into his stunned embrace.



II.


It is not pleasant to remind a man of his shortcomings

who once thought he could mold perfection.


I thank the goddess, not him, for shaping me

a voice to say, I am flesh now, not ivory or stone.


At first, when I spoke, he would startle, pull away,

but I have learned to sing:


While he lies on the bed, I weave

melodies out of the air, braid them


in constant variation. While he grows still

and soft with sleep, while his breathing slows,


I build whole cities of song.



III.


After he’d carved my blank white eyes,

he brought me trinkets and silk―I saw them

as from a depth of water―shells, pebbles,

small birds and bits of bright amber, drifting

through refracted light. Wavy and rippled

above the surface, his love-addled face.

When I think about how it would be

to become, that is, to make oneself,

I think of water, its constant flux, always

shifting shape. Could I not,

having gone from stone to flesh, go next

from flesh to water, singing

noisily over a riverbed of rocks,

shaping them, in time, boring out

deep holes so flawlessly round,

sliding, glittering, slipping

through his hands.