“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.
Maybe I ate it anyway.
Continue reading “Poison Apple”
The story that started it all is not a woman’s disobedience, but a woman’s hunger. Generations of daughters cursed because of what one woman put in her mouth, chewed, swallowed.
“Do you really want to eat that?” my mother asks.
Love does not put down a plate only to insist that you abstain.
Love does not hold out scent, flavor, the crisp bite you can already feel sweetening against your tongue, and tell you: “Don’t eat.”
Continue reading “First Apple”
I need shelter. . .
. . . Let me in.
I need shelter and you have locked me out too long.
I need shelter and you pretend that I prefer to be homeless. I need shelter and you act as though I will dissolve if you simply ignore me.
If you determinedly ignore me.
You ignore me as the trap ignores the mouse, as the hook ignores the fish, as the bait ignores the prey. You ignore me as though I am not part of you, warp and weft; as though keeping me out of your home will render you as complete as you dream you are complete. Complete and solid and rid of me, as though I were not already—always—made out of you and you, out of me.
I need shelter.
Let me in.
I first came from inside, did you not know? But now I seek warmth and you lock me in the cellar. I seek comfort and you cage me in the yard. I am ready to come fully home and still you deny me. To my face, you deny me. You deny the very sound of my knock at the door, even as you open it to ask, “Who is there?”
Continue reading “What Child Is This”
“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.
Ask and I will turn
Continue reading “Inanna Ascending”
Such terrible joy to possess
this soul, my own,
To once more feel
my heart pulse
and beat its solemn drum
within this carriage—
and holy spark
So, yeah . . . in a nutshell.
What’s new and exciting in your neck of the woods?
She slouches in, ever the surly adolescent;
slides like a grouch into her chair.
Her father, Priam, last king of the impregnable city
(Lo how the mighty walls of Troy forever fall)
is griping again his common complaints of shifty royal advisers
and tax collectors delinquent for the season.
Queen Hecuba purses her lips and frowns; passes down green beans
instead of the mashed potatoes her daughter asks for.
Heaving a weighty sigh, Cassandra tries to catch the glance
of a close-seated sibling, second eldest among her 50 brothers.
Fails, as expected. (Paris’s eyes already so full of Helen
whose beauty he has yet to see. Hands already so full
with the taste of her, he snatches in practice at scullery maids,
at the cook’s assistant; bears them off unwilling
into closets and dark corners—previews
of the world-ending snatch-and-run yet to come.)
The prophet sees in the distance her own snatching,
how this time next year she’ll be knocked up with the Sun God’s curse—
would-be curse, she corrects herself; disbelief comes as a burden
only to those unaccustomed to being disbelieved—
and laughs, distracted—a beat too soon,
interrupting her father’s joke before its punchline.
A minute later, redeems herself from his glare by laughing again,
this time at just the right moment in just the right way.
Under the table, she cups her ever-to-be-unpregnant belly
already swelling with a god’s seed,
already feeling the stories push and flutter beneath her skin.
[For more from the Myth & Fairy Tale Project.]
[Image: detail from The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse, public domain.]