Cat Reece | 3 poems

I Live in Leda’s Night

I saw a mosaic
of swan
of a girl

a tale told in tiles and stones and pigments
and the stories of the women I know
over and over again
with different shapes and shadows
and we can’t escape it

wings of a swan
holding down young pale thighs
soft flesh can’t but yield
to brute strength
maybe she screamed
and nobody listened
or maybe she silently cried
and waited for it to stop
beats like an earthquake
her heart
his wings
a gale she can’t escape

I can feel the feathers pressing
every part of me
like wind
like glass

Deuteronomy 22: 28
A woman who is raped
is to be sold
by her father
50 shekels of silver
to her rapist
to be his wife

Every time I walk alone
I fear the sound of birds

Should she refuse to consent, he should bribe her.
If she still refuses, he should beat her
with a stick or
with his fists and overpower her,
saying: “I take away the splendor from you
with my virility and splendor”

a teacher whispers
“Don’t stand so close to me”
and I was only 12

When you look at me like that
I feel feathers
brushing my neck

We are the daughters of Europa
of Ganymede
And I am still afraid
of silver moonlight
reflecting curve of wing
I can’t fly
but he can

Lucretia’s suicide was no admission of guilt
but saints decry her innocence
sin of involuntary sexual pleasure
The fault is hers for living inside her skin
for having that voice
that shape
that softness

Deuteronomy 22:23
If a man rapes a woman in the city
and she doesn’t scream
she will die at fault
her sin is silence and being defiled
his sin:
the violation of another man’s property
together cast out of the gates of the city
crushed with stones
because the weight of him crushing her
was not enough

you’ve heard this plea already
this story already
heard it a thousand times

this time
you should listen

I won’t claim to be saying something new
I’m not a prophet in her hometown
with words being born for the first time
in a god-touched voice

This is much more than one voice

It’s old, older than both of us, but it’s worth saying
worth screaming
again and again until we can finally escape the swans  

When I sleep
my dreams are filled
with a rush of feathers
and I shake and cry
I live in Leda’s night

I can hear it in every corner
the breath of it on my neck
tracing the lines from the soles of my feet
lingering at the small of my back
covering my mouth

Tell your daughter
Tell her everyday to love herself
the swans are not her fault

And she did nothing
wore nothing
sang nothing
by any stream
to call this upon her
garb her in confidence
drench her skin in self respect
tell her to keep singing by the water
so she can grow wings of her own

Let her take to the sky and fly above the swans.

Marfa, TX

It’s one of those towns,
a bastard child of the railroad
left abandoned and squalling in squalor

Its heart
a Courthouse
justice precarious and glowing
atop, blindfolded as usual
like she’s ready to jump
to shatter on the mulberry stained sidewalk below

I believe her eyes were stolen
and no one knows
crime hidden behind a swathed visage
and with delicate lids she holds in the blood
keeping the red rivers dammed from her cold cheeks

We found a sheep’s skull
inexplicably in a neighborhood
My sister and I took it
we buried it
and made a headstone from a cereal box

Beside the track
a graveyard of empty houses
dry rot and crumbling adobe
an old paperback book
in Spanish
curls its pages towards its heart
and spine
I wonder why they left so quickly
why no one came back for their book.

There’s the church for the few straggling congregants
brick building flourishing with asbestos and bare crosses
There’s a room up there
See the window?
It has no doors.
You have to get in through the roof,
I think that people go there
when they need to die alone.
It wasn’t supposed to be there, you know.
Builder’s mistake.

I wasn’t supposed to be here, you know.

There’s an outdoor drunk tank
a black metal cage
remnant of an old West romanticized
and when it’s empty
my sister and I play there
we pretend we’re tigers in a cage
we prowl from empty metal bunk frame
to empty metal bunk frame
and counting the bullet holes
in the black iron slats.

Our claim to fame, the legend fully our own:
There is a place
right at the hill feet
fault line
where the angels live
If you wait
for countless nights
they might burst up out of the dust
to dance
white silver fire a too bright blaze
following the metal of fences
chasing cars like the dogs do
My friend’s grandmother
she said
they came right to her window
when she was a little girl in the hills and she was unafraid.

My father told me once
the sea used to cover this land
I tasted the dirt
tonguing silica for a tang of salt
primeval whales used to dance
where there is only alkali dust devils
My sister and I
dug everyday in the alley behind our house
for sea shells
under a drought sun
a too bright blaze
that bleaches away all memory of the sea.

I wasn’t supposed to be here this long.

I close my eyes and feel for the waves
that used to be
and search for the undertow
movement of many waters
whale songs
but all I hear
are the howls of the packs of dogs
chasing the cars
that are finally going elsewhere.

Anne Bonny and Mary Read

The sea sirens
bringing shipwreck
pulling under
gentle lovely killing
they are lies
they are nothing.

There were two
Storm and fire inside crashing waves
a lightning you would beg for a strike
who would rip you boldly apart
without glancing away
They are storm
They are everything

She knew from the moment
the serving girl’s blood touched her skin
She looked at the blade in her hand
and knew the call of salt.

“The sea is no place for a woman.”
But the sea is a woman
of silver, wrath
sapphires, and brine

She climbed the limbs of outlaw sailors
their backs her ropes to be born upon wave
Calico Jack Rackham wrapped around
her scarred and eager finger

Her secret to conquering:
she never dreamed to tame the sea
but joined its wildness with her own
crashing into itself
she never missed the shudder and shift
of solid earth
The dance of water was in her bones.

Then crashed in another maelstrom

Storm converges with storm

Some say, how strange
the improbability but realness
of their meeting
these two storms
Pirate Queens, sea sisters, same salt
flowing within them
And yet
How could it not?

“You kiss like the sunset,” she said
“You kiss like the dawn,” she said
They kiss like every bolt that has ever
struck the sea
aglow electric
St. Elmo’s fire
pulsing ghosts on the wave

a warning and promise
threat and vow

How could the world not bend before them?
How could this hurricane not have been?

They drink fire
They speak steel
Gunpowder is on their breath

They rule by the moon
anchored only to change
It pulls every sail and hull
rushing completeness
The sigh and breath
of riptide

tempest and tide
bring all men in an undertow

But when you are the tempest
you are all that is left
wrapped and twisted together
in the heat and chill of travelling gales
Nowhere to crash but itself.

cat_reeceCat Reece studied writing and philosophy at the University of New Mexico. She now teaches high school literature and writing in Albuquerque, a career which has helped enhance her craft through the rich human interactions it fosters every day. Her fascination with myths and fairy tales drove her at an early age to start to collect stories from around the world, and to create her own to release into the mix. She writes fiction and poetry, and ventures at times into the world of spoken word performance.


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