I seem to always be writing and rewriting the same poem, just with different stories and slightly different forms. Sorry about it. This is the shortest one I’ve probably ever written, because it’s an acrostic. The first letter of each word spells out the title. Katabasis is a Greek word which was often used to describe a descent into the underworld, typically as part of a hero’s quest, but, as we know, women can’t be heroes. So Persephone’s was a punishment, except I don’t think it was. I’ve never thought it was. I choose to reinterpret her story the way I do to all my favorite goddesses and fairy tale princesses and etc.

Killing would be better, she thinks,
a clean break, a final severing.
To lie still and quiet,
away from those who make scrutinizing her into a job, insuring she plays her role.
Beckoning, Hades’ hand is the clearest thing she’s ever seen,
agonizingly real in a world where everything is spring green unreality.
Spreading on her palm seeds as red as the blood she’s often thought of shedding,
igniting the blood she’s not yet shed, an offering and a promise and a binding.
She lifts them to her lips, and she twines their hands, and she reaches out with the other and takes her own fate.

This is kind of cheating because I wrote this poem months ago. But it’s been a bad week, so I hope you’ll forgive me, whoever you are. I had vague aspirations of getting it published somewhere, but I’ve since decided that I only want to try to publish essays, not poems or short stories or anything else, because the weight of publication makes the creating so much less fun for me, so I’m putting it here instead. It’s also kind of cheating because I haven’t given it a real title, but in my defense, coming up with titles is awful.

Growing up, I had a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales on tape from the Library for the Blind and I listened to it on constant loop for years. “Jorinda and Joringel” was one of the stories on it, and for some reason, it embedded itself in my brain and I never entirely stopped thinking about it. But, me being me, I wanted a version where Jorinda told Joringel to get lost because he was boring, and, naturally, I also wanted some depth given to the witch. Preferably in the form of Jorinda and the witch falling in love. I thought I would write it as a short story, and I kept thinking I would do that until suddenly, finally, I wrote it as this poem instead. It turned out to really only be tangentially a retelling of the story, and of course I made it more about being trapped in a body than in a literal birdcage because again, I’m me. But, anyway, here it is.

You can read the original story here if you would like context.

—–

When you’re a girl, your body
A cage, and you, a nightingale
Without a voice,,
What do you do to survive?

He claims your salvation
As his cross to bear, says
Love, says forever,
But you know better.
She claims your warmth as her due, says
Wisdom, says truth,
And you begin to understand.

You say love and it burns, poison
On your tongue. You say
Please and it presses
Heavy on your shoulders,
A weight you can’t shake off.

When you’re a girl, your body
Unyielding, a stubborn outlier
Refusing to conform,
What do you do to feel real?

You offer as sacrifice your breath,
Your blood, but she
Scoffs, says she has no need.
You offer as penance your tears,
Your sweat, but he
Is too far away, occupied
With a quest for which you have only ever been
The catalyst, never the true goal.

when you’re a girl, your body
An inconvenience, a commodity
You no longer wish to trade,
What do you do to transform?

You say stop and
It feels like relief,
You say no and
It feels like release.
You have always belonged to yourself.

He comes bearing gifts:
The flower red as blood,
The enchantment broken,
The happily ever after.
She says this is not for you,
This was never for you.
You already know.

You rise up, you turn your back,
You hold out your hand.
Her smile is an awakening.
Together, you wield the dagger
Of your power to
Unbecome and rebecome,
Skin shed, flesh unbound,
Monstrous and finally free.

Sometimes, I don’t write anything because I feel very bad and I would rather save my words for nicer things. I’ve always been this way, withdrawing rather than spreading my bad feelings. But I believe poetry is a space where those feelings can be safe. So here they are. I’ll get better, and my words will be happier, but when I sat down to try to start this feature, this is what came out. I don’t think it’s a particularly good poem, but if I waited until I could write one I’m happy with, this blog would remain poem-free forever. I’m sharing it with you with the disclaimer that I’m fine, no one needs to worry, I don’t really hope to never wake up so much as I hope to never have to deal with anything again. I’m fine. Just mentally ill, constantly in pain, and tired of my life.

—–

I am trying to write a poem,
and what I keep coming back to is this:
my life is a forest where nothing grows,
a farm where the crops have all been poisoned,
a fire whose wood is too damp to burn.

I don’t know what poetry is because I have forgotten
how to look for it,
I have forgotten
how to feel it.
I have forgotten
how to feel.
I have forgotten.

My days are one long forgetting,
a fog that never lifts.
Remember when? Remember when?
Remember?
No.

To survive, you have to let go.
To survive, you have to move on.
To survive, you have to forget.

I am a spilled vase,
the water puddling around me slowly evaporating.
I am every clumsy metaphor contained in this not-a-poem,
not-a-confession, not-a-salvation.
I am a passive observer in this not-a-life.
I am not a monster, no teeth to bare,
no claws to extend. I am tired.

They say the body is a poem,
its skin, its bone, its veins and vessels,
its miraculous, marvelous blood.
Its breaths, in and out, its lungs expanding and contracting.
Its muscles and sinews.
When I stretch, I feel the ache,
the despair of joints and muscles that have worked too hard
with nothing to show for it.
They want to quit.

They say love is a poem, the yes,
the I will, the I do.
The hands clasped, the lips pressed,
the sleep-warmed skin and the mundane intimacies.
When I love, it is furious, it snarls,
it demands and takes and is never, never satisfied.
It blazes, a brightness that cannot be sustained.

They say hope is a poem,
the thing with feathers, the lift of the heart.
The thaw after winter, brutal cold to gentle sun.
The ice that is slowly melting. A smile,
a spring in the step.
I hope, I hope for quiet,
I hope for rest, I hope to never wake up.
To be released, to be relieved.
To look around and see nothing,
nothing,
nothing at all.