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.

Continue reading “When Oedipus Was a Woman”

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!]

Continue reading “Zeus Tries His Luck at Online Dating”

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

Poison Apple

“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.

~a.i. Continue reading “Poison Apple”

Inanna Ascending

“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_the_Night_(Babylon)

I. Invocation

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
your blood
to water.

Continue reading “Inanna Ascending”