The Minotaur in the Labyrinth
by Melanie Knippen

My hybrid-monster snout sniffs
bland hedge-leaves all day.
I run my paws across coniferous walls;
if a thorn gets stuck,
I pull it out with my fangs—
turn roses red.

I kneel in weeds
and long for epic tales.
My tail wags for heroic fantasies:
The Odyssey, Metamorphoses

I pray, “Dear Dionysus,
send Thalia, muse of comedy,
I could use a laugh.”

She appeared once
glimmered in illusion.
I was pacing,
doing my daily circles:
I couldn’t even chuckle.

I merely aim to find my way out
and meander about everyday
at a melancholic pace—

I am incessant motion
a meditation in madness
deep inside this strange form.
It’s a back-

I answer solely to a bull-horned god,
but I’ve exhausted all my answers.
Enraged, I lash out at branches.
Vindictive beast, I torture swallows.
Thirsty, I drink puddles.
I scream and accuse;
no one rebuts.
I only scatter my dinner.
It’s insane.

An epiphany:
Since there’s only one way in,
there’s only one way out.

I’m starving to say the least.
They barely feed me.
Only seven of each sex yearly—
nearly nothing.

I’m puzzled delirious
a ponderous bull-headed
half-man with needs.

I weep when I dream.
When I wake, my fur’s wet.
I’m stuck with burrs and solitude
stung sharp with remorse.

‘Poor birds,
I wish I didn’t have to,’
I think oftentimes.

I wander this labyrinth,
hypnotized dizzy,
half-dreaming sunrises—
always monochrome.

I write a plea:

Hero to Humans,
be reminded I’m half-man.
Find me in the maze’s center.


A single swing—
one deed
to be my hero.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The idea for “The Minotaur in the Labyrinth” emerged from a moment of empathy while reading about Theseus’s heroic deeds. Is it the monster’s fault he’s a monster? Can we sympathize with our shadow side? Is there humanity in that which we label monstrous? Where does the mind go when it’s confused, alone, and trapped? If we maintain dichotomous philosophies about good and evil, do we lose opportunities to identify, acknowledge, or rectify the dark sides of ourselves? Who is the true villain in this myth? Who is the true villain in this poem?

IMAGE: “Minotaur” by George Frederick Watts (1817-1904).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Knippen studied psychology and fine arts during her undergraduate degree at DePaul University and has returned there to obtain a Masters degree in English. She resides in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, where she enjoys exploring the labyrinth of language and delving into collective consciousness through myth.