The Price [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *

seakelp

The Price

Older than the ocean floor she slithers across,
the sea-witch rummages between her cartilaginous breasts
for the shell that stores the latest tongue
and voice in her collection.

Not the first fish I taught to waddle onto land,
she snorts to the anemones.
Not likely to be the last, neither—
and every damn one of ’em convinced
evolution’s just a party trick.
A ploy to meet cute boys.

She’d outdone herself on this one, too:
No talking. No singing. No dancing
without the girl feeling like there are razors
in her shoes.
Absolutely NO take-backs.

Settling her head into the wattles of her throat,
the sea-witch peers, sightless, into the cold ocean night.
Can’t nobody say as I didn’t warn her,
she harrumphs quietly, before pulling the tongue
from its shell and taking
a first bite.

~a.i.


END-NOTE: I have long thought of The Little Mermaid as one of the more cruel and telling fairy tales Patriarchy has gifted us with yet: a young girl gives up her ability to speak, and agrees to excruciating physical pain, simply as the price of seeking love? It ain’t no mere ensorcelling that nabs her voice, either. The sea-witch literally cuts her tongue out. And then our mermaid princess can’t even score the love she sought! Not only does she not get the “happily ever after” Disney grants its Ariel and her thrilling-as-wet-toast prince; in Hans Christian Andersen’s original, her “happy ending” consists of turning into a vacuous “Spirit of the Air” and finding herself tasked with blowing cooling breezes at humans for the next 300 years, in order to earn herself a soul.

(Maybe it’s just me, but by year 75, I figure I’ve turned my back on the whole “gonna get me a soul” dream and am just praying to be turned back into sea foam. Even the most self-abnegating emotional laborer’s gotta find three centuries a bit long, no?)

Anyhoo, that’s been my read on this little ditty about a fish and her prince since forever…until I recently came across a compellingly different take.

Continue reading “The Price [The villainess series]”

Beast [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *

window

Beast

I am the hero of your story. Not you.
Not ever you.

The headlines shoulda read Haggard crone strikes a blow for justice
(for truth in advertising, at the very least) —
yet still you carry on like the brute you always were.
Raging about the woman who dragged you down,
moping about the woman who’s ‘sposed to lift you up.

You brought this on yourself, remember?

At issue: could you redeem yourself.
Not: could you convince some daft slip of a girl
to enact redemption on your behalf (Stockholm syndrome
ain’t a recommended wooing technique,
case you ever wondered).

Next time I’ll skip the test.
Drown your furred, irredeemable ass in your sleep.
Burn your ballroom into ash.

Dance on your bones
the way heroes do.

~a.i.

EXTENDED END-NOTE: Fantastic yellow Disney dress aside, most modern treatments of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ —likely highly influenced by the 1991 animated film—that interpret the story as a romance bug me to my core. In the original French tale, written by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (and plenty problematic in its own right), the Beast treats Beauty with utmost respect and generosity from the outset. He will be her servant, the Beast tells her, when she arrives; she is now mistress of his house.

Continue reading “Beast [The villainess series]”

Alice and the Wonderful, Delightful, No Bad, Very Good Day

Because sometimes you just gotta say “fcuk it” to the writing and bake a birthday cake for a horse instead.

annie cake_apr17
Why yes, since you mention it, that IS a 4-layer coffee-chocolate cake with lemon curd filling and a cardamom buttercream frosting! Good call. Your eye for detail is impressive.

And what about you? Tell me something good that’s happening in your world right now.

Or, equally delightful, tell me something absurd…


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[Recipe adapted (only very slightly!) from this original.]

Green [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *

Madame_X_(Madame_Pierre_Gautreau),_John_Singer_Sargent,_1884_(unfree_frame_crop)

Green

I greet the day with a stretch and a yawn.
Half a continent away
a house tears off its foundation in a cyclone.

I trot down the stairs in my nightshirt.
The news reports earthquakes
stretching to both poles.

I’ve heard people claim I shrunk them small with a spell.
That I fly on a broomstick surrounded by an army
of winged monkeys.

Lies all, but I do not blame them.
My upbringing did not prepare me either for the sight of a woman
flying, her wings as terrifying and tender as any man’s.

They say I am the color of envy.
I say it goes the other way round.

~a.i.


Speaking of the Green One, are y’all familiar with Todrick Hall’s 2016 visual album Straight Outta Oz? Was recently introduced to it by a friend, and I am OBSESSED.

You can watch the whole thing here, but for a quick taste, here’s one of my favorite numbers:

Continue reading “Green [The villainess series]”

Mirror, Mirror [The villainess series]

* * *

“But, then again, what if they were role models?”
–Sarah Gailey, In Defense of Villainesses

* * *

Vaszary_Woman_in_front_of_the_Mirror_1904

Mirror, Mirror

The fuck they mean
“fairest of them all”?

When t’hell I ever sought to be called “fair”.
When t’hell they all ever been “fair” to me.

The only fairness found in this world
is the kind you scratch out for yourself

from the dirt
or an enemy’s eyeballs.

Why else you think I sharpen manicures
into these red-tipped claws?

This is a favor I am offering you, girl.
Not a curse. Take it.

Put your heart into this box.
(Call it “mother’s intuition,” if you must.

My heart too was soft as yours
when it still beat inside my chest.)

~a.i.

Continue reading “Mirror, Mirror [The villainess series]”

The Writer Dreams of Rivers

[CN: rape, self-injury]


winter-river

“Survivors understand full well that the natural human response to horrible events is to put them out of mind. They may have done this themselves in the past. Survivors also understand that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. It is for this reason that public truth-telling is the common denominator of all social action.”
–Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

In a dream, I come across a toad in the woods. Squat, warty, with flat blank eyes. He belches up a stone that clatters over my feet. A ruby, I recognize when I bend over to look: big as my fist and red as death. I reach out to pick it up, to pop it into my mouth for safe-keeping, and grab the toad instead. I do not realize my mistake until I feel the toad sitting belligerent on my tongue, plumping up his blotchy abdomen to fill the space from my lips to my throat. When I look back for the ruby, it is already gone.

I wake up choking.

* * * * *

Most of the photos I have from my childhood live in a large document box, clustered together chronologically in clearly-labeled archival folders. My mother—trained historian and daughter of a news-photographer—made just such a careful box for each of us during the years after my grandfather’s death, merging countless stacks of inherited photos with her own files as she worked to organize his legacy. An inch into the box, in a folder simply labeled “GRADE 2,” one finds not photographs but a carbon-copy report typed onto two sheets of onion skin paper, preprinted with the words: CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION.

I remember this report, even though I’d never read it until recently. Or, more precisely, I remember taking the tests that led to it.

And I remember Mr. Morley.

Continue reading “The Writer Dreams of Rivers”