Poem introduction

Titian's painting of Diana and Callisto shows the exact moment when Callisto is revealed as pregnant in Diana's presence and Diana points at aggressively her with her beautiful finger. Later in the story, Callisto becomes a bear and is about to be shot by her own son who doesn't realise it's his mother, and the two of them are flung up by the gods, who have pity at the last minute, into the sky and become the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. This poem is from Callisto's point of view, spoken as that constellation, but looking back at that moment when her pregnancy is revealed.

Callisto's Song

* stars * stars * stars * stars * and * I *

  * am * made * of * them * now * looking *

* down * on * myself * then * a * colorito * woman * yes *

   * that * was * me * in * my * red * sandals *  the * great *

* outdoors * curtained * golden * embroidered *

  * and * heatshimmer * above * blue * mountains *

* nothing * vertical * not * even * the * plinth* and *

  * no * speech * no * names * then * just * a * cry *

* as * the * busy * body * nymphs * stripped * me * because *

  * we * all * had * rounded * bellies * then * but *

* nine * months * gone * so * my * navel * curved *

  * like * a * gash *  and * o * so * noticeable *

* among  * all * the * diagonals *  and * everyone *

  * looking * a * different * way * looking * a * lot *

* especially * the * goddess  * arrow-arm * pointing *

  *bow-mouth * strung * and * dogs * crouched *

* because * they * sensed * consequences * and * gods *

  * arriving * and * doing * what * gods * do * upstairs * and *

* the * artist’s * finger * loaded * and * the * paint * alive *

  * alive * with * stars * starts * stars * stars * stars *


uncollected poem © Jo Shapcott 2018, used by permission of the author

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Jo Shapcott

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1Keats Poems

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2Fox Collar

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3The Bee Poems

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5P

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8The Wood Describes How to Get Lost

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18Callisto's Song

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