My Apparent Thing for Rhetorical Questions in Poetry


So I am still working on my epic poetry about Xena: Warrior Princess, and I have started to notice some patterns, which I have noticed in my work before, but since this is (so far) a 260+ page project on a single subject, I am noticing them more now. One of these patterns is the use of rhetorical questions, which I think I use to show how the character of the speaker of a particular poem is either wrestling with a problem or coming to a solution, or just my capturing their voices. These I took just from the (so far) 54 pages I have written about Season 5.


Eli (Read: Jesus/Gandhi)

You let me heal the broken,

But what good is that gift if I cannot stop them from being

Broken in the first place? How does fixing the problem

Afterwards solve the problem? Why did you give me this

Troubling gift and what do you expect me to do?



How can we live in a world in which

Fear is stronger than love? But how can we protect love

Without fighting for it?… She says, “Why don’t we all

Just walk away?” But is that even an option anymore?



Remind you of any particular Roman warlord? Yes, I do use this

Line on all my warlords, but it’s true I used it on you first.



Why are we never prepared for the surprise,

For the consequences of dalliance or domination?

Why are we never prepared for love and its confusion?



Her easy smile, her trust, how will I win those back?



I could pretend to be humble, but

What purpose would that serve?



What is it about rabbits?

What is it about her and these young men?



You don’t think after four years as her sidekick

I would not recognize the heroic moment when it comes?

How many times now has her soul left her body?

How many times have I had to fight to keep her safe?



But how could a single god take care of all your needs?

How can a god that preaches love manage a world

At war? How can a foreign god come to our Greek soil

And reign over our people?



Mongolia? The Battle of Corinth?

I was always a fan.



Hestia, as always, focuses on the wrong

Thing, muttering in despair, “Isn’t anybody a virgin?”

And the family, as always, ignores her.



Why not fruit? Why not my body?

Why can’t I use both as weapons of opportunity?


So talk to me, peoples, how do you feel about rhetorical questions in poetry? And also, this, because it’s one of Lucy Lawless’s cuter expressions.


Occasional Poetry, Part 1


On Her Fifty-Somethingth Birthday, Greater Boston Rejoices

Lo, the Amazing C. Musselman has been

On the Earth these last five decades and we,

Waving our hands and dancing with our feet,

Are grateful. So we show our gratitude

With colored banners, cakes and ale, broad cheers,

And songs (probably in Finnish) and small bonfires.

We light up the bay. The tourists likely think

It must be some local holy day but we

Know better. Having had the mission furniture

In our brains rearranged by her speeches

Over the preparations for every dinner,

We know that holy is not the word for it.

The word is knowledge, or wisdom perhaps,

The domain of Athena. What they both bring

The world is yearning for knowledge,

That sudden spark that lights the conflagration

That annihilates all we thought we knew

To make room for what we never thought

Possible. This is their gift to us, ever being

Offered, ever received. And so the fireworks

(Fireflowers, the Japanese call them) erupt

Across the skies of the world this night

In their honor, in the honor of her chariot

Pulled by cats, that she won from Freya

When Apollo decreed that he liked Cecelia’s

Pottery better, in honor of her baked

Mac & Cheese that Thor decreed could make

A warrior weep, in honor, in short, of her birth.

And though those who do not know the woman

Might think this paean overwrought because

They have never seen the shine of her mind or

Eaten the food she offers with such love, I, who

Know her, tell you it is not. As with many we know

And underestimate for their size or quietness,

Though she is but tiny, she is fierce.

Muses I Have Known and Written… Part 2


One thing that impresses me about my yoga teacher, Erica, is how, after we move into that final, fetal position, she always talks about how to use our practice in our busy lives. “The goal is to take the way you feel right now out into the world,” she might say, so that when we get overwhelmed we can call that feeling up and get back into a quiet place mentally and emotionally. We bow to each other at the end of practice, and return to the hectic pace of our “normal” lives like infants tugged from the womb into the cold harsh world against which we have no defenses.

Another time she said, “It’s a fact that the bad things that happen to us are like missiles that travel further than the good things. And that’s okay, because that’s the body trying to protect us from danger. But we need to bring our mind to reassure the body that it’s going to be okay. And that takes practice.” I was stunned, since this exactly explained the pain of a friend of mine who pretty much had been mentally abused by some professors when she was studying for her PhD and has had great difficulty with her writing process ever since, because those years taught her self-doubt to a crippling degree. I repeated the words to myself silently so that I could share them with her. At first I was surprised by the deep wisdom of a woman who is only maybe twenty-eight years old. Then I remembered some things I had said at that age, advice I’d given friends, unexpected insights that I blurted out in my grad school classes. Wisdom is often a byproduct of age, but there is nothing to say that it cannot also be a byproduct of the freshness of youth.

After attending Erica’s classes for three months, I tried to write an essay about the experience, but that didn’t work. Then I wrote the following poem, which I didn’t really like and quickly scrapped:

The Yoga Teacher (v 1.0)

I grew up with a father, brother

God, enthroned holding a rod

In one hand, a shepherd’s crook

In the other, like Aten, gilded,

A pharaoh god to rule both lands

By day. I always thought the spirit

Who flew between them should not

Be a dove, to coo helplessly at war

And devastation, but an owl,

Hunter by night, embodied spirit, holy

To Athena. You remind me of her now,

A grey-eyed goddess, a long dark line

Flowing smoothly into the next posture:

A warrior, ready to throw her spear

Straight through the enemy hordes,

Defeating their violence the hard way

With sweat and strength, and a calm

Eye that knows how to aim true, facing

The uproar outside herself and that within,

Knowing the poetry of long, patient practice.

The problem is that the first part starts so far away from the second part, which is the whole point of the poem. Erica’s tan skin and grey eyes and her powerful Warrior Two posture reminded me of Athena, who Homer always called the grey-eyed goddess. And since my second Masters degree is in Christian theology, I thought I had to start from the God I actually believe in before I could start talking about a Goddess I think is really cool and strong. And although the imagery in the second stanza works, it just seems weird to go from Hebrew to Egyptian to Greek religion just to talk about an Italian American teacher of an Indian practice! I was pushing it, trying to force the connection.

Note to self: that almost never works.