Galatea’s Lament

What autonomy does the art object have when it becomes something more subjective?

From the stark white marble block
his rough sculptor’s hands freed me,
shaped me into a flawless form
to love, to pamper, to worship:
an ideal,
free of all the “vices” and “flaws” of my sex,
which he despised.
He put me on a pedestal.

And for his passion and his silent prayers
(and unmitigated misogyny),
the Goddess of Love made me flesh
and gave me
to him.

And now that I am alive
and his,
I am filled with fear.
What if his critical eye
finds some overlooked flaw?
What if time steals too much
of the beauty that would have been eternally preserved
by cold marble?
What if, now that I am truly alive,
a woman of flesh and blood and mind,
what I say or do displeases?
What if, in his eyes,
like all the rest of my sex,
I am found wanting?
What then?

I often wish some other goddess,
one not made of sea-foam and blood and semen,
one who valued respect or kindness or equality
instead of erotic obsession
had heard his prayers.
What reward would he have received from her hand?
Would I have been free to leave,
my own woman instead of his,
to teach him the price
of possessiveness and unreasonable, uncharitable expectations?
Or would I have been allowed to continue to sleep
and dream cold, hard dreams
in unyielding marble flesh?

O Goddesses, grant my prayers!
If I must be an object, let me be as I was:
unfeeling, unthinking.
If enslavement rather than freedom be my lot,
free me at least from knowledge of it.

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Jon Etter

Jon Etter

Jon Etter is a high school English teacher and the author of the all-ages comedy/fantasy series "Those Dreadful Fairy Books" from Chicago Review Press. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of anthologies and literary journals, including "The London Journal of Fiction," "Tales of the Once and Future King," and "Entombed in Verse: An Epitaph for Salem." For a full list of his works, please visit

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