Somewhere in a story, not yet knowing Jason’s name, Medea dreams of floating away across the wine-dark sea into adventure. Her brother’s dismemberment yet awaits her, and the scattering of his parts upon the ocean like torn bread tossed to ducks. Dragon-teeth remain unplanted, a father’s treasures unravished. Many years and many tales not-yet-told lay between her in this moment and the slaughtering of rivals with sartorial poison, the kebab’ing of sons on barbeque skewers to serve at their father’s remarriage feast.
Do you believe for one moment she dreams unbloodied?
Even before the evils, back when her smiles were still Glenda-the-good-witch charming, Medea caught the mind’s eye. More than Jason ever could, that milquetoast memorable for theft and desertion, and capturing the love of a woman so far beyond him that only rankest misogyny stifling to stillborn our daughters’ horizons explains it.
I would be Medea, if I could. Even in the before, yes. And in the after, a thousand thousand yeses. I would stand bathed in blood and vengeance; I would know the dangers of disobeying and fling myself regardless from an Olympic peak.
Keep your fairy tale ladies wooed in their sleep by even-more somnolent princes. Your never-novel heroines in their plodding marriage plot, self-extinguished the moment finger meets ring. Tinny tunes of romance rewarded, as brittle and small to my ear as a music box that opens on a plastic ballerina twirling in slowly-slowing time to an unwinding clock.
The dragon guarding your princess in her tower is the one Medea defanged.
Your prince rides to her rescue direct from from a spring-coiled ballerina’s bed.
Give me instead a song of families gathered round spilt blood and split bones, feelings tall and proud enough to outlast the raising of a mountain unto its utter destruction. Sing me the desperation that can rip a sibling apart, ligaments tearing beneath my fingernails and gristled bone so fresh it twitches. Gods and mortals breathing common air, bodies fabulous and violent: the raping swan, cow-women tormented across continents, flesh turning to wood even even as a girl outruns her fate and her outstretched arms leafing —
Give me the future Medea dreams, yes, even as she tucks her brother beneath the crib sheets and lingers to let his sleepy fist grip her smallest finger. Exaltation and damnation in equal measure.
Every woman’s story of family requires myth, and truth demands the myth be bloody.
Feature image from Jason and Medea by John William Waterhouse
Hello, friends! To those of you still here, still reading and writing — my many thanks! Hope you’ll drop me a line.
Today is my 7th birthday, after a fact. The work continues (does it EVER END??) but am pleased to report it has been quite a lovely year, with even lovelier intimations for the future.
May it be the same for all of you.