Summer Solstice 2020 - A Collar of Wasps
by Alli Marshall
The frantic rush of the morning and all
its obligations got to be too much. I had
to send myself out to the rain. And because
the mud portends the spring I went in deep
up to my knees, wallowing
in the earth that bore me. I know my voice
is more raven rasp than songbird but
I’m not so out of tune as out
of place. My ancestors would have built
a shrine to the likes of me, brought offerings
of honeycomb, made me space to work
in smoke and poetry and dreaming.
But they might have sunk me in the river,
too, with a boulder lashed around my waist. Left
me to make an amulet of blood
and bone, my own blue eye for a nazar.
So I’ll live here, in the water, in the snow-
fed chill, my patience a whittling knife slowly
carving down a mountain. My hair
uncombed, my ankles uncrossed,
my handbag full of subversions. A pen,
a needle, a still-smoking lightening bolt. Try
to tame me with a corset, a marriage,
my unrepentant womb. Even
if I speak softly, it is to curse anyone
who dams my freedom or clips my wings. Clasp
around my throat a collar of wasps, saying, “That
will keep her in place. A million angry stingers
aimed at the jugular.” Bring it
and I will wear it like a jeweled breastplate,
my vestments of battle, my invocation still rising
from the primordial tremor and buzz.
I could have been a droning "caller of wasps" perhaps?
just invented that job, I like the sound of it. — Neko Case
Beltaine 2020: Medusa by Ellen Perry
“Perseus told of his long journeys, of dangers that were not imaginary ones, what seas and lands he had seen below from his high flight, and what stars he had brushed against with beating wings. He still finished speaking before they wished. Next one of the many princes asked why Medusa, alone among her sisters, had snakes twining in her hair. The guest replied, ‘Since what you ask is worth the telling, hear the answer to your question. She was once most beautiful, and the jealous aspiration of many suitors. Of all her beauties none was more admired than her hair: I came across a man who recalled having seen her. They say that Neptune, lord of the seas, violated her in the temple of Minerva. Jupiter’s daughter turned away, and hid her chaste eyes behind her aegis. So that it might not go unpunished, she changed the Gorgon’s hair to foul snakes. And now, to terrify her enemies, numbing them with fear, the goddess wears the snakes, that she created, as a breastplate.’”
from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, 8th century (trans. A.S. Kline, 2000)
My name is Medusa, guardian and protector. I was once most beautiful. Now I am a fearsome, dead thing, snaky and wild, for all of eternity. As punishment for being raped in her sacred temple, the goddess Minerva turned my golden locks to serpents. I lived like this, tortured and hideous, until a man asked for my head; Perseus began his quest, found me asleep, and murdered me. It was as simple as that. I gazed out lifeless at any number of enemies, turning them to stone on command. Finally, in order to protect herself, Minerva placed my head on her shield, the first but not the last woman to betray me.
Women betray me still when they turn from my face, the face of endless trauma and violence. The ugliness hurts their pretty eyes. Modesty prevents them from looking at me without wincing, or fainting, or screaming. These women are too delicate and pure of heart to face the brutality of a predator-god who stalked me when I was a girl, innocently worshiping a goddess in her temple. I became a monster not after Minerva cursed me with serpents but during Neptune’s attack. I became monstrous because I was mortal, after all. Had I been divine, I could have become Pegasus myself rather than birthing him from my bleeding neck. But it’s always the men who fly off with ease and who tell the tale later around a blazing fire; they tell my story for me, and the women turn away.
Look at me: my name is Medusa. I was once most beautiful. And now I am the Gorgon who turns your heart to stone.