Venus and Minerva in Quarantine

Beauty’s feeling fugitive
furtive and sallow
in her bathrobe 
standing ragged
at the fridge

Wisdom peers in
like an owl perched 
on a midnight limb—
once she was Madame X in her dark dress,
vamp with a raptor’s eye,
aloof to
matters mundane as
dinner until 
they slithered 

Now, silence strings itself
on a necklace 
between them
as fragile as life. 
Calendar pages
fold into pearls
hoping to surf 
on Beauty’s shell

or, failing that,
to try once more
for Wisdom’s attention—
bills, bones, teeth
coughed up as a pellet


L.J. Sysko’s work has appeared/is forthcoming in Ploughshares, BEST NEW POETS, Radar, Limp Wrist, SWWIM Every Day, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. BATTLEDORE, poems of early motherhood, was published as a chapbook in 2017 (Finishing Line Press). A 2022 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Thomas Lux Scholar, Sysko has been honored with both Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowships; her poetry has twice been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize, judged by Billy Collins, and has earned finalist recognition from Marsh Hawk Press and The Pinch, among others. She is a reader for The Common and a Delaware State Arts Council board member; she can be found online at