Tired turns into a presence at your shoulder that you are constantly ignoring. Turns into a cliff edge, pebbles shifting beneath your feet and clattering over the edge hundreds of meters to the bottom. Tired slinks at your heels like a wolfdog, familiar but distrusted, and someday it will go for the throat. Tired pools in your lungs, seeping into the bloodstream. It’s your middle name now. It doesn’t count if this is how you always feel. Say one word enough times and it stops meaning anything.
You can’t start climbing the mountain until the first rays of sunlight touch the top and you don’t want to be touching stone when the last evening beams fall, so from the moment your foot touches the base there is no time to spare. The mountain is so tall you can’t see the top for the boulders in between and there’s not time enough in the day but if you want it badly enough this is the only way.
Rayna sat in front of the mirror removing her makeup and wondering who she would discover underneath.* Her cheeks had felt hot all afternoon, a warm flush that suggested her stars were shifting. But she had to focus on the dictation she was taking, the click of keys as her fingers flew across them. A long afternoon! Oh, there were some of these brazen young girls in the office who went practically bare- you could see the pin-prick glow of stars right through their makeup. Rayna grew up with a proper standard of modesty, and she was not about to abandon it for any new fashion fad. Showing off your Truth-Face to the world! She rinsed the rag, pale now with foundation, under the faucet and applied it to her face again.
thoughts on Subway Canyon
Some places don’t feel real.
Somewhere on the steep hillside, as you scrambled down rocky ledges and slid a little in the red sand and followed the tight little switchbacks of the trail back and forth and back and forth through the scrubby trees, you stepped or scrambled or slid right out of the normal world and into a painting.
The end of the world came as a relief. Like summer breaking, the first crisp wind. For long months now, Mary had despaired of ever having another day off; day after day, week after week, never enough people or time at work and they always needed her. Despite spending her days in the walking nightmare that was retail, so consuming that her own laundry piled up, emails languished, and spider-plant wilted, there was still never enough money to pay bills. Everything was always rolling faster these days, and the only way to hang on at all was to close her eyes and plunge blindly on and on into every morning.
God-touched Cassandra is too far removed from the human race. She watches the Furies flock like birds of prey, whirl like the winds of war, circle the house like a hurricane – and there is nothing she can do. She is burning up with that touch of divinity. She sees the past in ghastly shades, the children’s blood crying out from the ground; she sees the present in vivid hue, her own blood splashed across the altar, the bestial horror of Clytemnestra’s hunger tearing like a dog at the carcass of her lord; she sees the future not so far away, the young man bringing anger and justice. Cassandra, Cassandra, you see too much. The very power has set you, dream-like, just outside the mortal veil. You couldn’t walk away from that altar, from that future, from the death you already felt – the last mortal thing left for you to do.
Caterpillars do not simply grow into butterflies in the cocoon: first they dissolve into a gooey mass, then reform out of the sludge. Destruction and rebirth. (This is not the whole truth. Depending on the caterpillar, certain body parts will remain; and the “imaginal discs” for regrowth remain. Close enough!)
Fascinated by this process, I wrote a surreal, story-esque short questionnaire that you can take right here. Enjoy!
This poem is entirely composed of direct quotations from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon (utilizing the Robert Fagles translation*), and contains quotations referring to each of the four major female characters: Helen, Clytemnestra, Cassandra, and Iphigenia.
* * * *
A wild creature, fresh caught-
She must learn to take the cutting bridle.
She left her land chaos; strode through the gates defiant
Bride of spears, a bride of tears, a fury
Whirled her wedding on to a stabbing end.
Her beauty hurts her lord, the bridle chokes her voice.
She strains to call their names, her glance like arrows showering.
She is the lioness. What outrage- the woman kills the man!
That detestable hell-hound, monster of Greece – girl of tears.
A beast to the altar driven on by god.
*Aeschylus. The Oresteia. Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics, 1977.
The black leaves are sharp against the sky, and that is more important than most things I will do today. So is the way the sky softens over the glowing mountains, a gentle dusk. There is something vast and sharp and a little sweet here, something that tastes like bladed poems do. It is out of reach. There is something there, but the sky is untouchable, and the day rolls out instead in a long dull road of dishes and notepaper and forgotten coats.
It is all beautiful and unfurling,
it is only that there are so many layers of petals to breath through
and they are all twining and curling
quite bluntly through my lungs.
I am sure it is quite all right,
if I can only take deep breaths and move more slowly
and remember it does no good to fight
stray thorns that trellis up my heart.