[I decided to stick with the theme of modern mythic retellings for a bit. Further thoughts on Cassandra after the jump.]
Cassandra Smokes in Bed
Beside me, limbs tangled in the purple sheets,
His naked back rises and falls gently in slumber
and in no way resembles the bludgeoned calf
I already see him become.
He thinks thrusting into another king’s daughter
will purge him of the memories: his own child on the altar,
the plunge of the blade in his hand.
When he shuddered between my thighs,
I felt her butchered screams pass into me.
I will make room for her amid my madness.
In these generations of death,
what difference comes of yet one more.
As the stickiness of his seed oozes out of me,
I take a long slow drag on my cigarette
and watch the smoke of a dozen burning cities
roll off its embered tip.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MYTHOLOGY
I have long been haunted by the figure of Cassandra, the prophet forever ignored, misheard, disbelieved. Cursed for denying her body to a god who wanted it and doomed to spend ten long years pacing the high walls of Troy shrieking how her city will fall, is falling. Has already long since fell.
In the first play of the Oresteia, Aeschylus tells a version of Agamemnon’s homecoming in which Clytemnestra convinces her husband to enter their palace by walking across a purple (sometimes translated as red) tapestry—an act he initially resists as it could indicate hubris. The first time I saw the play performed, this red cloth reappeared later in the staging as the bloody shroud wrapped around Agamemnon’s murdered corpse.
What has remained with me as an even stronger image, though, is that of Cassandra—now turned war booty—as she too hesitates to enter the building where she knows the queen is about to kill them both. Listening to her describe this foreknowledge to the mystified chorus, before finally submitting to fate and following him in, is chilling.