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 Upanashads, 18.104.22.168 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 forgotten 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 growling 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 real 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 Untameable Nowhere to crash but itself.
Cat 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.