After the reading, the poet takes shaky steps
down from the stage, like Perseus
down from the mountain holding Medusa’s head,
his stomach still coiled and writhing
like her hair lately did until the stroke of his blade
stilled the serpentine tresses.

The poet used a pen, paper and lectern
to slay demons instead, but walks with the same
adrenaline charged tremor as the ancient hero of myth
with his sword and mirrored shield,
even though the poet risked only
stony silence at the battle’s end
and not the stony existence 
that Perseus faced as the price of failure.

Whether the battle is physical or mental,
life or death or between applause or silence
the glands can’t tell the difference
and pump out the drugs in equal volumes.

As the poet retakes his seat
and tries to sip his beer without spilling any,
he ticks off another victory in battle.
So far the poet is ahead,
but the demons are close behind.

5 June, 2004

Copyright 2003, by Steven K. Smith
All rights reserved

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