Maureen Thorson: Pick of the Week [ed. Terence Winch]

Maureen Thorson web

















I used to know the god Apollo.

He taught me acting. I was terrible,

but those old Greeks delight in transformations.

His eyes glittered, sea-like, under Renaissance curls

as he lifted a cigarette to his lips, told me:

All actors should smoke; it’s the only way

to do nothing and be completely fascinating.

I hadn’t even gotten the hang of beer yet, but I was game.

He liked to have me yell my monologues,

would yell himself, egg me on:

Louder, more, remember how pissed you are!

When I let loose at an imagined jerk of a lover,

Apollo smiled, his teeth little matched pearls

between wine-stained lips. Really, I was a virgin

at everything, from kissing to cards,

but when Apollo is your teacher, you learn some things.

I learned to stand in my tight-fitting, miserable human skin,

and cast it off like a sales-rack coat,

revealing glad rags beneath. And if they were a sham, so what?

I had learned that everything is changeable,

my looks and my loves and my squeamish heart.

That’s when Apollo knocked my helmet off.

Careful, he murmured, breath smoky against my ear,

a cook can become a countess, but she’ll never burn a cake.

Nothing changes completely. That’s where he left me,

with my familiar doubt and newfound sneer,

with the dwindling orange eye

of the cigarette he’d hurled to the stage floor like a dart.


Maureen Thorson is the author of three books of poetry: Share the Wealth (Veliz Books 2022), My Resignation (Shearsman 2014), and Applies to Oranges (Ugly Duckling Presse 2011). Her book of lyric essays, On Dreams, was published with Bloof Books in 2023. Individual poems have appeared in Ploughshares32 Poems, and Calyx.     [“Typecast,” from Share the Wealth (Veliz Books 2022), first appeared in Cherry Tree (# 5, 2019).]


Charles Meynier (1768-1832)  Apollo  God of Light  Eloquence  Poetry and the Fine Arts with Urania  Muse of Astronomy  1798  oil on canvas  108 ¼ × 92 ½ inches  Cleveland Museum of Art                                         

Charles Meynier (1768-1832), Apollo, God of Light, Eloquence, Poetry and the Fine Arts with Urania, Muse of Astronomy, 1798, oil on canvas, Cleveland Museum of Art.

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Author: Terence Winch