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.
“Wanna bite?” the old woman asked,
holding out her cherry-red confection
polished and gleaming as a new Corvette
or a little girl’s patent leather shoes
on Sunday morning.
Should’ve tipped me to the truth, that glow alone.
Nothing from nature shines straight from the tree,
the earth, the ocean. Not before violence:
the pearl deslimed of its oyster’s flesh,
coal hewn from the depths and lit ablaze.
Even fruit does not reveal its juicy glisten
until split open by greedy teeth.
But I was tired and not attending as I should.
It’s long days, caring for grown men small enough
to resemble children—or call them children
grown destructive enough to resemble men. No matter. Princess is only a title that escapes drudgery
when some other woman’s close to hand.
What I’m saying is:
Maybe I did notice, after all.
Maybe I did understand.
Once upon a time, in a kingdom very far from the sea, there lived a little princess who spent her days scooping up frogs and kissing them full on the mouth (though with very little tongue). This was the destiny bespoke her: that her lips would one day free a prince, who would come to rule her people with justice and grace and love her as deeply and true as only a man with a second chance at life can.
One day, the little princess noticed a strange thing happening. After each kiss, even as the frogs remained all entirely frog-like, a green splotch would bloom upon her fair skin. Then two splotches. Then three. No amount of lemon juice or pumice stone undid the pigmentation. Soon she grew quite mottled, her once smooth complexion pebbled and waxy to the touch.
“Well, no matter,” she thought to herself, “for isn’t this the essence of love? To transform ourselves without question into that which our Beloved will most desire?”
“The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable. Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried.”
~ Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery
“From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below.
Inanna set her mind on the great below and abandoned heaven, abandoned earth…
Who has ever ascended from the underworld,
who has ascended unscathed from the underworld?”
~ from the Sumerian epic Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld
Queen of heaven’s ziggurat! Bringer of war and bestower of lust, Mother of humanity!
If you cannot divine which holy face I turn
towards you from the sky,
remember only this:
You fail to worship me at your peril.
II. Rape Under the Palm Tree
Ask what was I wearing that day
and I will tell you: rags / robes / nothing at all.
Ask and I will tell you: my sovereignty flying across the sky like a rainbow.
A girl looks into a mirror. Staring back: a feral thing with bloodshot eyes, its matted hair jutting twigs and leaves.
Trick of the light.
She shakes her head and the mirror ripples, then settles, like a pond after a skipping stone. Now, across the glass, the girl sees a matching limpid-eyed child in pigtails. She turns her face to the right and to the left, checking herself in profile, and nods, satisfied.
A final toss of her head, and the girl steps away from the mirror, opens the front door, and walks into the bright morning sun.
Stretching from her feet along the sidewalk behind her, the girl’s shadow rears on two hind legs and snarls at the sky.