When Oedipus Was a Woman

Don’t tell me I’ve got my facts wrong.
Or fall to the fallacy of Freud, imagining only sons
can threaten a father’s throne, or evoke a mother’s passion.
I know a hero’s plotline when I’m born into one.

The Sphinx first tipped me off.
I had come with a riddle of my own: What is happening
to the babies?
My princely brothers each disappearing
as suddenly as he arrived, my mother’s arms empty
as her belly again flat.
“Oracles can be misheard,” the Sphinx said, with a shrug
and rustle of her wings, “or misbelieved. Daughter, son, child who shall—
She bent to sniff my offering: half a lunchtime pb-and-j
and a handful of goldfish crackers, then lipped one cracker
and crunched it, open-mouthed. “What oracles don’t?
Is misspeak. Gotta listen with the same precision.”

I left her growling happily over my sandwich,
lion’s tail curled around her paws like a housecat.
Considered carefully her words. Came to a decision.
Plotted my next moves. A culmination
years in the making.

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Iphigenia’s Apology

“He loves power. A terrible love.”
—Euripedes, Iphigenia at Aulis


The day the great king sacrificed his child for favorable winds
in recompense for some gravid deer killed in a sacred grove;
—or perhaps the clean calculus of men with swords already thirsty, still a long voyage to Troy
and wasn’t it her aunt who started this whole mess in the first place
bitch Helen with her dimpled thighs so easily and so widely hinged;

those clustered close at the scaffold’s base would later swear: with dying breath
came not the feared but looked-for curse. Her only words, “I’m sorry.”

Dutiful, claimed royal hangers-on long accustomed to the eldest girl’s
guilty proclamations. Her contrition for being too loud, too soft
too much, too little
too argumentative, too acquiescent
too beautiful, too plain.
For the unset place when guests arrived unannounced.
For the household’s every unexpressed desire left untended-to.

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Zeus Tries His Luck at Online Dating

Or: Even Ancient Deities Get the Blues

  1. Will you save me the choicest bits of meat when you sacrifice a calf
  2. Will you sacrifice your first born
  3. Will you swear to remain a virgin
  4. Or to become one
  5. Do you speak in tongues when you speak in prophecies
  6. Have you been a tree a bird a woman fleeing on foot
  7. Have you turned into stone
  8. If you had to choose a ravishing which would you choose
  9. A swan a bull a cascade of coins
  10. Hymen is the god of marriage
  11. Will you obey us
  12. Will you call us Father
  13. Will you call us Daddy
  14. Will you praise us
  15. Will you praise us
  16. Will you praise us
  17. Will you call it love

~e. alice isak


[Quick note for station identification after the jump. Hope you’ll join me!]

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The Gift

Eurydice, dying now a second time, uttered no complaint against her husband. What was there to complain of, but that she had been loved?”
— Ovid, Metamorphoses


Disregard what poets tell you. 
They hear the thump of their own hearts
and think they have discovered a universe.
Or presume that my beloved, musician to the gods
who never flubbed an entrance in his life,
might in eagerness miscount the beats remaining
to lift his wife back out of death.
Turn for me too soon, an accident.

You living march toward darkness
like a parade, joyous and cacophonous
and blind. Whereas I have already worn my shroud.
And I have already tasted ashes.
The sunlight you steep in cannot thaw bones
already chill with such fore-knowledge.

See the truth. In his final triumphant crescendo,
Orpheus heard a single word fall
from my mouth like a stone:

“Turn.”

And true love did. 

~e alice isak

Medea Before the Argonauts

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.

Wait. No.

Not regardless.

Regard-full.

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First 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.”

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