LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING

I have a poem published in the most recent issue of Voiceworks, LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING.

Aphrodite is the oldest of the Olympian gods, and I thought about exploring a darker, more primordial reading of her. As the goddess of love and beauty, her marriage to disabled Hephaestus is often seen as a cosmic joke. I wanted to see that conflict resolved with a queer turn.

This will be my last poem in Voiceworks, since I turned 25 a few days after the submission deadline. I am deeply grateful to Voiceworks editor Adalya Nash Hussein for helping shape this poem into something I am sincerely proud of (and for being very patient while I rambled on at length about mythic context).

The issue includes a breathtaking illustration by Iona Julian-Walters accompanying my poem. You can pick up a copy here.

 

LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING

Here’s another version. Aphrodite is an old god,
older than most. She is born when Cronus cuts off
his father’s dick and flings it into the ocean. Around
the severed organ silver foam wells up, and in time
a girl takes shape in the crest of the wave, her body
pale and shining. When she emerges from the water
grass grows beneath her feet. Her outline wavers
a little in the blush of dawn, lit around with gold.
This is before she knows the form of her divinity.
She thinks she might be a goddess of the morning,
or of summer blossoms, or birdsong. But her teeth
are a little too sharp for that, the arch of her throat
too cruel. She lacks the batlike wings of her infernal
sisters, the jealous Furies, but there is something
in her eyes that resembles them. What she wants,
she takes. Her attention is first drawn to her husband
by the bright rubies winking in his earlobes, then by
the delicate treasures he crafts as courting-gifts:
grand chariots, jewelled chalices, fine-wrought chains.
His prosthesis is simple but lovely, a platinum frame
spun lightly around the scarred warp of his leg.
Hephaestus, like her, has an eye for beauty. Later
outside Troy the goddess hears a bloodcurdling cry
as brazen Ares comes blazing through the mortal
ranks, his eyes flashing with hellish flame, red with
gore, beautiful and terrible. She takes him to her bed
not long afterward. Stripped of his bloody raiment,
spilled out against her pillows, the god of strife is
strangely vulnerable. His hands are soft at his sides.
Aphrodite has no mercy in her: she rises over him,
bites and scratches, sinks her claws deep into his flesh.
Her husband finds them there like that. Ares glowing
under the light of the moon, Aphrodite pinning him
down. Hephaestus stops in the doorway, his shadow
stretching out over their bodies. His knuckles are white
around a golden net. His eyes are burning. Aphrodite
arches her back, tips her head back lazily to meet her
husband’s furious gaze; then she opens her arms to him
as Ares shudders beneath her. A moment of hesitation.
The golden mesh slips out of his hands. He strides forward.

THERE ARE ONLY 16 GENDERS

I have a very serious (read: prodigiously silly) gender poem out in Cordite‘s TRANSQUEER issue. You can read it here.

Do check out the rest of the issue if you have the chance – there are some beautiful poems in there, especially from the late and great Candy Royalle.

REQUIEM FOR MEDUSA

New poem out in Hermes, REQUIEM FOR MEDUSA, and a recording of me reading it. This poem was the judges’ choice winner in the “word” category of the USU Creative Awards. If you swing by Verge Gallery in the next week or so, you can pick up a free copy of the edition.

 

REQUIEM FOR MEDUSA

He does not look directly at you,
your murderer, fearful that one
unprotected glance at your body
will strike him down. When the
sword falls upon your long neck
his gaze is turned aside a little as
if from shyness, tinged perhaps
with disgust at the monstrosity
of your form, or shame, not for
himself but for the anathema of
your existence, looking only at
your reflection. You do not give
him the same discourtesy. Your
alien eyes, gold and slit-pupilled,
are fixed on him the entire time
you are dying. The shape of him
young, lithe, feet planted firmly,
all leather and bronze, one long
red line of blood interrupted by
splashes of your own blue-black
ichor. Mirrored shield held aloft
like Atlas burdened with the disc
of the heavens. He dims as your
vision falters, brilliance dulling,
blur of blood and light and dark,
the shadows deepening as your
own shade departs the cave, not
for the cold hell of Tartaros but
for the rivers of the dark-haired
god who accepts all equally and
whose kingship over everything
under the earth extends already
to you and your serpentine kin.
Behind you in the mortal realm
the husk of your corpse turns to
ash as he seizes your skull by its
hissing roots, affixing your head
to his burnished shield, his own
reflection fixed forever in your
nacreous pupils, the gilded killer
entombed, ill omen to future foe.