Forum of Virgins by Helen Hofling

Knocked over behind the garden bench
Her stone torso gathers ivy.

Vestal, a body premised on removal and now seated
In ruin, her being dependent on what she lacks.

Across the capital, her open face
Crowns a fountain with

Eyes like a dead horse—
Milked over and cataract wide.

The Vestal wonders which component
Of her marble body

Has been photographed more times
Since separation.

Her parts consult. Their recollections
Form a single stream.

They murmur to each other
Over our dumb, sun-grazed heads.

She thinks of her sisters, their snuffed flame, and
For some reason, Leda’s attack.

Of the cruelty collapsed around her pedestal
In cinders, refuse, leaves.

Each sister’s head removed
Far from the vestal flock,

Condemned by anger to
Mannequin silence.

Consigned by new media to
B-roll selfies’ mise-en-scéne.

When had a chip of sea moss elided
Her roaring secret?

She plots their return,
First, gathering in a circle,

The spaces between them will divide
Ever in regress and too brightly,

Volcanic ash women
Risen from Pompei.

A vee of white feathers
Falling from the sky.


Date: 2019

By: Helen Hofling (19??- )

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