Pygmalion knew these women all too well; his instincts told him he’d better sleep alone. He took to art.

Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book X

His wife will say no living soul should trust
that skinny man. He reads too much and falls
asleep at 10pm. He only lusts

for crumbling effigies. In dreams he’s called
to bed by Hellenistic Artemis
through drapes of Grecian white. A labyrinth’s walls

protect him as he steals the virgin’s kiss,
then lays his hand upon the goddess mould
and sees her cobwebbed eyes alight with bliss:

her bliss, his living art. Her ivory folds
would shield him from banalities of strife
and age. He longs for stones to shed their cold—

Must only sculptors bring their work to life?
Professors, too, can carve a perfect wife.



Sheila Mulrooney completed her Masters in English Literature at the University of Toronto. A Canadian living abroad, she currently splits her time between Upstate NY and Toronto. Her work is forthcoming in Dappled Things.

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4 Responses

  1. Sultana Raza

    One of the most interesting poems at this time…. the words are simple, yet evocative, and they flow like marble drapery on a statue.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    Pygmalion carved his wife from ivory because all the women on his island of Cyprus were prostitutes, and unsuitable for wedlock. Professors have a wider choice today, but not by much.

    Kidding aside, it’s a fine poem, using a classical theme to make a contemporary point.

  3. Margaret Coats

    This poem makes me, as an art professor’s wife, ask whether I ever noticed his carving, and reminds me to shed any coldness. Intriguing terza rima sonnet!

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I love the this poem. I like the images it conjures; “cobwebbed eyes alight with bliss” is delightful. The opening sentence had me smiling and the wry wit of the closing couplet had me grinning. Your wonderful sonnet puts me in mind of Carol Ann Duffy’s sonnet from Anne Hathaway’s perspective in “The World’s Wife”. Her wink of a closing couplet reads: “I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head / as he held me upon that next best bed.”


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