By Anushka Joshi | Illustration by Manya Tam | May 2, 2019

the stare

Yes we all know the story

Of the hero Perseus who

Decapitated the monster Medusa,

She of the hair like snakes, she

Whose one look turned people into stone,  

That one. 

But did you know the preface

To that story?

How Medusa was raped

By the sea king in the temple

Of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

And how the goddess in all her wisdom

Punished Medusa, not Poseidon,

Replacing skin with scales,

Replacing hair with serpents

And replacing her gaze

Which had once melted

Men to lust and love,

To a stare that turned them into stone.

Medusa lived, from then on,

Alone on the island

No one approached her,

For when she looked at people

They became calcified in their 

Callousness, stone 


To apathy, unable 

To feel or care

For this woman,

This monster. 

Perseus killed her by

Holding up a mirror to her,

So that she saw herself,

After years of suspecting it,

As others saw her:

Filthy, evil, terrifying.

And she turned herself into stone.

He cut off her head 

When she had resigned herself to rock,

Surrendered herself to stillness,

A cement scream, a marble ache,

A slab of pain waiting to be carved

Into oblivion.

He placed the sword on her neck, which had been

Bowed in shame all these years.

The waves that she looked upon in her last glance

Became cliffs in mid-air,

Drops of her blood left pebbles on the beach. 

She died, but her stare lived on,

Sowing seeds of stone,

Passing on 

The inheritance of indifference. 

Tell me, who is the monster 

In this? 

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