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]”

Gingerbread

Y’know the fable about that boy who grabs a fist of nuts out the bottom of a narrow-necked jar and can’t get his hand back out? And then boy-o stands there like a putz, cuz he doesn’t wanna let go his booty—or refuses to realize if he lets some nuts go, he can pull a few others out and actually eat ’em?

Yup, that’s the one. You got it.

This story?

Is not that story.

Offer me a jarful of nuts, I won’t just turn ’em down; I’ll gnaw my hand clear off while you watch. I know it’s a trap you’re holding, even if you’re still kidding even yourself on that score.

Don’t bother pointing out the gaping abyss in logic here.

I’ll take your finger too, in a single bite, and t’hell makes you think I haven’t seen your logic myself already?

* * *

gingerbread-house

Continue reading “Gingerbread”

Love Letter, Unsent

sink-baby
Photo of the author being given a bath. Presumably by the author’s mother.

Dear Mom,

I miss you.

It has been exactly a year since we last communicated. I recognize our estrangement remains fully my choice, that I have only to pick up the phone and you or dad would without doubt answer. I think about that option every day.

I miss you—deeply—every day.

And, every day, I remember: sometimes we face decisions where all the options are bad. All that anyone can do then is choose the least shitty of the shitty outcomes.

And so I choose to orphan myself.

For me, losing you remains the least-bad option available.

* * *

I remember clearly that it was Valentine’s Day, the last day I replied to any message from you. One of the texts you sent, amid that final flurry of texts, simply said “Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you!” And I’m sure you thought that was innocuous. I’m sure you thought that, THAT, was a message I couldn’t possibly take issue with.

And so I would give you what you wanted.

But this is not how love works. This is not how anything works.

Continue reading “Love Letter, Unsent”

My Beautiful Boy

nathan_10-15-16

Nathan
Apr. 2003-Oct. 23, 2016

[Photo taken in happier times, AKA one week ago.]

His death was sudden and shocking: both very quick and—in the bleak final hours—excruciatingly slow, brutal, and painful. I went from praying that he would live long enough to make it to the euthanasia appointment the vet and I had scheduled for 10:30 this morning (in case the last-ditch home remedies didn’t work overnight) to pleading with the universe to please let just him go.

At 3:12 this morning, convulsing on the bathroom floor where he always loved to laze, his head cupped in my hands, my baby went.


Oh my dearest, darling Nath.

You stupid, dumbass, beloved little shit, who never found a bit of plastic or lint on the floor (or even random flicker of shadow either, let’s be honest!) that you didn’t feel compelled to eat: I have no idea what you found to scarf up over the last few days that turned your tummy into a graveyard, but I am truly sorry I could not save you from yourself. You got into so many mishaps over the years because you found the whole of your world too fascinating to worry over every little detail, like “is this actually edible?” or “will this set me on fire?” Continue reading “My Beautiful Boy”

what has once been seen cannot be unseen

screenshot-2016-10-21-10-41-08
(screen shot via youtube)

I am filled with grief this morning for Melania Trump.

I watched her husband’s tasteless speech at the Al Smith charity dinner last night, in which he repeatedly and grotesquely insulted Hillary Clinton to her face. [Apparently this event has a longstanding tradition of both presidential candidates showing up to “roast” one another.] And I noted the ease with which Trump shifted into humiliating Melania as a tactic to garner audience support.

When the audience laughed—and laugh they did, breaking for a moment the tension of that excruciating speech—they laughed because for a moment his target felt like a safe one. What husband would say such a thing if his wife weren’t in on the joke, right? And maybe they laughed because they slipped into the same blurred distinctions as Donald, using his wife as a lightning rod for their discomfort with him just as he jabbed at her in a pretense of self-deprecating humor.

But a wife is not mere extension of the man she has married. Make no mistake: that was spousal abuse on display last night, as Trump commanded Melania to stand for the people laughing at him making fun of her. When he admitted that he had not warned her in advance of the humiliation he had planned, he used her own loyalty against her and cornered her into either immediately absolving him or making a scene at a hugely public event.

Continue reading “what has once been seen cannot be unseen”

Percussion

Interior of a grand piano

Percussion

My marriage was a master class in musical absolutes.
Syllabus: variations on a single theme.

1. Every true composer must first be a pianist.

The piano is a percussive instrument
same as a drum, he told me,

manly as any silverback thumping his chest.

2. Only symphony or opera, only what the plebescite deems “classical”
merits the name of music.

Listen to this pop tune:
(sneering at the repetitive bass thumping of techno or house,
the snare solo interrupting the rock ballad)
Can you imagine any sound more emasculated?

3. Composing is not an art form for pussies.

Not when unzipped and whipped it out
is highest praise for the writing of a concerto.
Or believing your own vision mangled in performance

by flesh-and-blood musicians?
An erection attacked by a thousand paper cuts.

4. I understood:

To make macho sport of penning duets for Cello and Tenor
was a blow struck at childhood bullies

at jocks who called out “fag boy”

at the mother’s drunken boyfriend who’d once pressed his gun
into a small child’s hands—cold steel to toughen up

what hours at a keyboard threatened
to make soft.

5. I understood at last too:

(ordered to my knees, bare backside)
(strop pulled like a whisper from its satin case)

In such man’s logic, any woman’s body could itself become
drum.