Monica Youn, “Portrait of a Hanged Woman”

The Greeks
had it wrong:
catastrophe

is not a downturn,
not a fall
from grace.

No, it is
the sudden
terrible

elevation of
a single point—
one dot

on the topography
of a life. That
is the crux

of the punishment:
the singling out,
then that brutal

uplifting.
It is as if
a steel clamp

had seized upon
one square inch
of a flattened

canvas map then
jerked sharply
upward:

the painted landscape
cracking along
unaccustomed

creases, cities
thrown into shadow,
torqued bridges

twisting free.
A life is not
this supple,

it is not meant
to fold, to be
drawn through

a narrow ring.
The Greeks
were wrong.

Necessity
is not a weaver,
there is no spindle

in her hand;
it is a woman
wearing a steel

collar, wearing
a stiffly pleated
dress, which lifts

to reveal nothing
but fabric where
her body used to be.

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