Ted Hughes’ Ovid.
Dancing on the blackened floorboards,
holding each other close, and kissing.
this is the moment you met,
and screaming you came together,
the barrage of words within you both,
colliding, and clashing, and thundering against your skin.
Fighting, one of you will win;
the singer pauses, the room is silent,
and your hands come together in Romeo’s prayer.
Now, I am ready to tell you,
How bodies are changed
You were too good, too clever, and the words
fell from your lips like the water when you leave the pool.
Her jealousy was small,
blanketed in pride, and you saw it,
and were pleased. Her children cried,
and she answered as you battled against their noise.
There is a kind of anger in the muffins,
soft and flaky against your chapped lips,
that she baked the afternoon you wrote about the tractor,
frozen in the desolate field.
Did you remember her, with her perfect blonde hair,
cascading over the table,
and silent as you sang to her?
You found her, laid there and peaceful,
and so you locked yourself away,
behind your copy write laws,
and said that you had changed.
Your bed was cold, and the body that lay there
did not move in sync with you.
You are chastened, but not really changed.
Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.
There are shapes behind the curtain;
twisting and writhing, swimming together,
they are inseparable, and claw at her brain.
Hands intertwine, limbs appear to be a part
of him, of her, of the body that is melting.
They claw at her pupils,
her hair feels like it is falling,
and her skin is being stretched by her scream.
The lights flicker, and they are dying prematurely.
The God’s heard her frenzy and smiled.
She is watching you.
From behind the curls of her blonde, blonde hair,
and her hands are shaking against the knife.
Your movements are rapid, desperate –
hurry the betrayal and speed towards the guilt,
that can consume you in the quilt
that makes you cry into her shoulder at night.
She could always smell them, did you know that?
she can see their movements echoed in your eyes
as you tell her you love her.
The jealousy grinds inside her,
and the blood on her lip tastes sweet for a moment.
You needed a woman who stood up to you.
Her anger carries to the door, and she interrupts you,
and bewitches the girl.
Your truth would be too much for the girl to handle
(this is my wife),
and so you take her, and squash her
beneath the heel of the shoe that Sylvia would polish that night.
She will stumble very soon headlong into hell’s horrible river, pushed there and shoved under by the loving caresses of none other than her darling…
Arachne and Minerva.
threads into a
creating her own images,
that you could never understand.
Her hands waved in a rhythm
strange to you.
You were disconnected
from the glare in her eyes,
from the lilt in her voice,
from the scars on her skin.
She was triumphant when she lost you,
and she laughed at your anger.
She played with you, and spat you out into the web of your own words.
…jealousy herself could not find a stitch in the entire work that was not perfect…
Tereus and Philomela.
A fairy tale told to wide-eyed, pigtailed young girls who sit on their mothers laps at playschool, listening to the housewives talk. This is the way the world works.
They did not talk of the fragility of the family, of the betrayal and the fear, and they did not tell her that at night their cries would echo in your ears.
Procne and Philomela. The perfect sisters. The loving father. The loving husband. The devoted brother-in-law. The precious son.
And the screams that are the ghosts of her mind.
Philomela was their father’s favourite. He gave Philomela, young, to Tereus, the wealthy King. He did not tell his daughter how, when her husband first set foot on the shore, a lump rose in Pandion’s chest, and he choked through it, tears staining his flaky cheeks. He knew Philomela was too attractive, too tempting. Procne would make the perfect wife for Tereus. When Procne saw her sister, crouched in the forest, her blood staining her chin, and her limbs shaking from fatigue, she wanted to wrap her hands around her sister’s throat, and squeeze until all the beauty, all the desire in her was wrung out, and Procne could return to her husband, and pretend… and say… and ignore…
Jealousy chewed at her ankles and her skin itched and trembled.
To kill her would be to kill the threat to her family. Sat around the family table – Procne, Tereus, and Itys – the perfect family.
Family. The ones you are given. The ones you create.
Her arms are falsely comforting. She is good at pretence. She follows the lie, and does not even allow her sweating palm to guide the string, but walk back with it to the shadow of your home.
You destroyed her dream
when you first fell into the trap
held for you by the woman with
Your monotone kitchen table seemed distant,
and only her blue,
blue eyes called to you.
Echo and Narcissus.
You found her body, cold.
She had wrapped herself in sodden rags, and breathed in the poisonous air that streamed through your home.
Your tears did not fall to your cheeks,
and you dwelt too long at the window,
gazing at your reflection –
for the first time in years, she was not at your shoulder.
You were free of her,
free of her cries, and her pleas, and her words
that would echo for months in your deafened ears.
You were free of her,
and yet you tied yourself to her,
holding her hand so tight, that you, and she, and death, could not let go.
You wrote her birthday letters,
and you wrote these poems,
allowing your words to echo hers,
to echo her love for you.
Days later, you joined her,
on the banks of the sticks,
and once more, felt her fingers through your hair.
Figures, grey and misty, float around you.
they cradle each other in their arms,
and whisper to themselves.
Wrongs are made right, and figures you killed,
breathe in your mind again.
But she lies there, dead.
And you watch her, your eyes unseeing of anything but her,
your mind empty of her laugh, and her whispered sounds,
and your hand clenched against the loss of hers.
You believe you have killed her.
You believe she has killed you.
Bound so tight, across the distance of a haunted room,
at last, you cry for her.
Now I am ready to tell you,
how bodies are changed
into different bodies.