Call and Response

by Ellen Goldstein

The summer’s first bonfire, someone passes
a bottle of gin grown warm from handling;
crickets chew on the rim of night. The only
constellation I recognize is Cassiopeia’s
chair; and over the flames I watch how Georgia
lays her head in Stephanie’s lap. Would Cassiopeia,
Ethiopian queen, who swore her beauty
surpassed that of the gods, and who by speaking
got herself exiled to the stars, whose oldest daughter
was then chained to a rock for sacrifice,
would she be able to tell me who I wanted?
Stephanie, flushed with gin and firelight
puts her fingers on Georgia’s neck. I lie back
in the meadow grass, prickling with absence.
Above me, the queen’s dark gaze, undaunted
by the burning white of her chair, urges me
to leave this new rock I’ve chained myself to
and get away while I still can.

Ellen Goldstein was born and raised in Central Virginia. Her poems have appeared in Southern Poetry Revew, Streetlight, pettycoat relaxer, The Formalist, and Mid-American Review.