On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial

By Linda Pastan b. 1932 Linda Pastan
We invent our gods
the way the Greeks did,
in our own image—but magnified.
Athena, the very mother of wisdom,
squabbled with Poseidon
like any human sibling
until their furious tempers
made the sea writhe.

Zeus wore a crown
of lightning bolts one minute,
a cloak of feathers the next,
as driven by earthly lust
he prepared to swoop
down on Leda.
Despite their power,
frailty ran through them

like the darker veins
in the marble of these temples
we call monuments.
Looking at Jefferson now,
I think of the language
he left for us to live by.
I think of the slave
in the kitchen downstairs.

Linda Pastan, “On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial” from Prairie Schooner (Summer 2007). Copyright © 2006 by Linda Pastan. Reprinted by permission of Prairie Schooner.

Source: Prairie Schooner (The University of Nebraska Press, 2007)

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Poet Linda Pastan b. 1932

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Religion, God & the Divine, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Mythology & Folklore, Greek & Roman Mythology

 Linda  Pastan

Biography

Poet Linda Pastan was raised in New York City but has lived for most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. In her senior year at Radcliffe College, Pastan won the Mademoiselle poetry prize (Sylvia Plath was the runner-up). Immediately following graduation, however, she decided to give up writing poetry in order to concentrate on raising her family. After ten years at home, her husband urged her to return . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, God & the Divine, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Mythology & Folklore, Greek & Roman Mythology

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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