‘Between Scylla and Charybdis’, Carina Bissett

Art © 2023 Josep Lledó

 [ Bruixa © 2023 Josep Lledó ] He came to me at the seashore
an avowal of love on his lips
pursed to lick salt from skin revealed,
ocean spray frothing, white
foam furrowing, folded
around his piscine tail.

Mighty Glaucus urged me closer,
but I refused, retreated far inland,
safe from unwanted advances
until a witch-queen cursed
the sea god’s distraction
and attacked me, instead.

Circe poisoned my sacred pool,
determined to disfigure my grace.
My new form hatches, hideous,
and I retreat, cliffside,
girdled by savage dogs,
hunger insatiable.

I was there to stand as witness
to Zeus’ crime against Charybdis,
punishment wielded, a whirlpool,
an unquenchable thirst
trapped, a strait, jacketed,
a chromosome doomed.

Between Scylla and Charybdis,
danger awaits, hideous females
fated to stand as obstacles.
And so, we join the list
of monstrous women doomed,
tasks for heroes to best.

            The gods’ chorus claims the Sphinx leapt,
            her demise incited by despair,
            trounced by a single riddle solved—
            a woman’s wisdom crushed,
            the lioness muzzled,
            wings broken, quills clipped short.

            They say the Sirens, too, chose death
            rather than confront a valiant man,
            who judged them much too seductive—
            a sister’s union destroyed,
            reputations ruined,
            triad quelled, song severed.

But we are neither Siren nor Sphinx,
women waiting to be defeated.
We are monstrous, majestic, tempered
steel forged by wickedness, water, wind
screaming for us to break from those chains,
release our unholy desires.

And when we walk once more in the world,
our promise of vengeance unveiled,
      there will be no mighty hero,
      no fearsome god, no man unscathed,
      no one left alive to stop us.

© 2023 Carina Bissett

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