PYTHIA – Margaret Saine



– Margaret Saine

When she was in trance
she would scare men
with her incomprehensible garble
rasping voices rising from her throat
would shriek and groan startling
all those country bumpkins from the
farther expanses of the Roman Empire

They were almost as much in trance as she
exhausted from their long trip
and the heat: some said men reacted
to Pythia’s screams as if frightened
by the cries of their own mothers giving birth
cries they heard perhaps
when they emerged onto the earth
[no woman is afraid of howling]
or they heard the screams of men
dying of their wounds in battle

Others pretending to understand Pythia
tried to take the high road holding forth
with their interpretation of her shrieks

Always solicitous of the guests
the priests tolerated Pythia’s screams
manipulating the hidden message to elicit funds
their confidence trick
was pretending to be eunuchs or
old and doddering beyond sex
as they insinuated themselves
into the concerns of their visitors
but satisfied healthy sexual appetites
penetrating Pythia on the stretcher
just as she came off the buzz of sulfuric fumes
and who knows what other ebullient gases


Margaret Saine was born in Germany and lives in Southern California.  She writes poetry, haiku, and short stories in five languages, also translating other poets. Her books are “Bodyscapes,” “Words of Art,” 5 haiku chapbooks, plus the mss. “Awkward Child” (in German, to be published), “The Five Senses,”  « Lo efímero queda » and “Reading Your Lips” (tbp).  Her poetry has also been published in Italy, Germany, and India.


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