1st Place – Flash 405, April 2019: “Magic & Myths”
Let me have no happy fortune which brings pain with it
or prosperity which is upsetting to the mind
when love is in excess it brings a woman no honor nor any worthiness
Another island. Palatial two room studio apartment. Trains crisscross the east river bridges like shuttles across looms. The lions and wolves of lower Manhattan paw their way home.
Men on this island are mostly pigs. It’s not my doing. Exactly. Where’s a man with whom a witch doesn’t have to bargain? In the old days men parted my thighs as if parting the branches about a holy bower. I privileged them.
Time to light the lamps that line the path between burner and bed. As if it is feast-time. Like the old days. Lay the scarlet roast upon the formica counter, its fat sizzling with resinous herbs. Pour honey into scalded milk. Sprinkle barley upon the sill. The buxom moon pops out of its brownstone corset, floats towards the city like a white heart.
The next man that dares my door I’m turning into a fish.
I will never again turn “nobody” into somebody.
From now on, I’m only changing men into something I can eat.
I cannot endure joy, that most temporary thing
dragged by horsemen to a height it can hold but briefly
before it crashes down again
The sun comes to soon from a night in which each minute is endless.
The days pass slowly, but time?
Time is swift.
On the last day of the saddest month he sailed off holding the loose end of my ball of string. First it unraveled, then drew taut then
now oh now the rattling spool of loneliness my
Woe, O, woe! The gulls circle o’er my lovely head wanting all the meaty coils stuffed inside it. Here’s my piping-hot skull bowl proffered to scavengers. My bones become apparent. See how I lose my youthful plump? If I soak my finger in this bottle I’ll calcify it.
Bottle, finger, I lift you in a toast. To stars and electrical stars. To the moon lost among windows. To city and sound long island sound before sea I drain
my bottle for ships that come in, then sail without me.
(She empties the bottle and tosses it into the lapping waves.)
Bully captain carousing on your ill-omened ship I hope you
or someone you love jumps off a cliff and drowns.
Poor suffering wretches we are left alone without love.
When love has abandoned us what is left?
What is the fire pit without a fire but a pile of ash?
What is the night sky without the moon
but a great city whose lights are always in the distance?
Where am I going on the long road at night alone?
The ground is torn in many places.
I will stumble and help myself up.
I will sleep alone with only the view for warmth.
Everyone feels sorry and even arrogant towards people who lose love.
Circe you should-a-never you shouldn’t have
Circe you shouldn’t you should a never atoned me
for brother murder
for leaving my father
for running real far
for killing the serpent coiled at the base of
my sacred tree.
It guarded the gold
sacred to my people.
I’m exhausted fading towards (out of) time.
Mind wrecked ravaged ravaging woman naked yet clothed in my own skin I sing I sing I—
Circe you should a never you shouldn’t have atoned me.
At each moment when my heart should bend—like a reed woven into a basket, a basket to cradle fragile things—my heart snaps, taut as a bow string, letting arrows fly.
The blood on my hands is the blood on my thighs.
It’ll eat at my insides until I’m pure, white as acid.
That snake who encircled with his many folds the golden fleece and guarded it and never slept I killed
and so lost my light.
The days pass slowly
but time? Time is swift.
A ship, vanishing into the nether-darkness
on the wings
of the wind.
When you love a stranger, suddenly, rest assured there’s a god who wants something that’s nothing to do with you. Gods never want anything from a woman except sex. Their favorites are all men.
The best thing to do when you feel this god working love in you is to identify the thing or skill or idea or power that the god needs you to exercise.
Maybe you will do all that is required of you.
But don’t do it for love.
Do it to learn what capacity lies latent in you that the god, provoking love, actually requires.
REMEMBER: You are a needle the hero’ s thread passes through. In his narrative, you are an event.
His story is the garment you are betrothed in.
But the hero is not your bridegroom.
You will wed
Who, grand-daughter of the sun, wild-voiced, carried by the sun opposite the sun that means east, in a chariot fierce-drawn?
Who, drunk princess who can outwit man’s most elaborate labyrinth, now that you are thinning like an hourglass in a desert of sand? A disintegrating god? A mystery? A thread-bare patch of black velvet in which you are set eternal as star?
Look at Circe. I suppose Odysseus, for her, since not a pig, was a seed.
He became something in her garden. A poppy? A laurel? A death-cool cypress tree?
We don’t hear much about her anymore. She has no narrative. She is available for speculation, as are you. Surely her island has a garden hither-to and nether-yon it flourishes and decays and in it we may wander taking whatever path we prefer it is there for us (un-heroic) to explore.
This piece hit the nail on the head for “Magic & Myth,” giving a modern stage to three women maligned by idolized heroes of Ancient Greece. There’s so much to unpack in this experimental script that’s part play, part poem and song. I love how it blends beautiful, poetic language and spikes of dry, contemporary humor to deliver incisive and clever commentary on relationships, the patriarachy, and the cult of the hero. Some lines jump out at you (“The next man that dares my door I’m turning into a fish”? Amazing. “REMEMBER: You are a needle the hero’s thread passes through. In his narrative, you are an event”? Absolute magic), but each monologue has it’s own unique style and thought-provoking message. And, given that it is technically a script, this is a piece I’d absolutely love to see performed. I can already imagine the myriad ways it could be interpreted, and the fact that it can work on both levels, page and stage, speaks to its strength.
Laylage Courie is a writer, performer, and maker-of-things-from-words. Her latest big thing is the art-pop, dream-folk radio play these fountains rare here—a coming-of-age fairy tale about one woman’s quest for springs deep enough for her to bathe in. It is available everywhere you download and stream (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc.), and on CD. Her work is published in Fence, Adbusters, experimental performance journals, been a finalist for the Jane Chambers Award for Feminist Performance Text, received Axe-Houghton grant funding, and been performed all over downtown NYC. Her strange and not-so-strange poetry readings are featured in the Apple podcast cosmic dream radio. She’s online at luminouswork.org.
Laylage was born in the rural South, educated at Agnes Scott College (B.A. in Mathematics), and now lives in New York with lots of rocks, teapots, and houseplants.