Two Poems After Hesiod
by Brett Foster
1. Advice to a Brother
It’s wise for us to marry at thirty,
and you’re not far off the mark. So realize,
a maiden like this is what you should choose.
Men want her because they can teach her good
manners, but wait till she’s four years full grown.
Timeliness is best. Perses, don’t be fooled,
don’t marry what will make your neighbors laugh.
One rule: nothing’s better than a good wife.
A bad wife’s fireless heat will dry you out.
Any brother can tell his brother that.
2. Portrait of a Maiden
Boreas, rising over open water,
bends to the earth the tips of sapling fir,
sets the forest splintering by his wrath.
Neither oxen hides nor fine-haired goatskin
prevent beasts being cut through with shivers.
A matted, sheep-wool pelt can keep him out.
Though he levels the elderly like reeds,
the maiden’s skin still glistens, unassailed:
face fire-radiant behind shelter walls,
yet untouched by golden Aphrodite’s
mysteries, she learns to be beautiful,
as her mother sitting beside her was.
She bathes, dries her body carefully,
anoints it with oil, then to bed. Hazards
rage beyond the dark, inner chamber.
Brett Foster’s first book of poetry, The Garbage Eater, was published last year by Triquarterly Books / Northwestern University Press. Writing of his has recently appeared in Ascent, Atlanta Review, Crab Orchard Review, IMAGE, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and Seattle Review. Poems are forthcoming in Salamander, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Theodate.