I tend to go in cycles for how actively I write; college was a cycle of a lot of active writing, mostly because I was bored in class half the time. I believe I wrote this one in the Fall semester of 2003, when I realized that if I switched my minor to a general Classical tradition focus instead of Greek, I could drop several classes and graduate the next Spring, thereby actually graduating in four years instead of the more usual five or six.
At any rate, I still found myself under the tutelage of many of the Greek professors at Grand Valley, where I learned much but retained mostly only minor factoids, like Pericles’ famous proclamation (found in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War) that a woman’s glory is to be completely unknown; that women’s makeup of the day often included lead; and that Pandora’s box was actually probably a jar. I don’t know when I wrote this poem in relation to learning any of those particular factoids, but I’m totally going to claim that this poem is an unconscious counter to the treatment of women in ancient Greece.
One final thought: my ill-conceived book of poems, where I found this, often contained references to “whores,” which is probably a byproduct of my evangelical upbringing as well as the fact that it was just a convenient rhyme. I left the word in this one, but want to call out the fact that almost eight years at Covenant Eyes has led me to view women in the sex trade, whether by choice or by trafficking, with much more compassion. There may be a few women who choose that route coming from a healthy background and who do not experience abuse doing sex work, but the vast majority are victims of cycles of abuse of all kinds that started in childhood and continue long after they exit the trade.
Written circa Fall 2003
Pandora opens up her box and stores
Her makeup there within its polished space.
She latches it and ties it up with lace,
Then walks among the businessmen and whores
Into a world where she is blamed for grief.
She touches junkies, strokes a dropout’s hand,
Repenting, smiling, giving sans demand.
She climbs all mountains, wanders every heath.
It’s purgatory, traveling the world,
And carrying her box just like a purse,
She celebrates all joys, mourns every hearse,
And all with polished lips and perfect curls.
Pandora always now must look her best—
She’s cursed the world, but still longs to impress.