Postnatal Depression in the Time of Medusa
A woman’s water bursts on the subway
from Queens to Brooklyn. Penny-palmed
boy dips fingers in the puddle, says mama /
look / she pissed herself. She thinks to ask
for help, but her tongue is a limp
muscle: whole, not yet clawed in half,
one to form American syllables
the other to belong to her Homeland.
She takes the next exit,
dripping Holy water
between both legs,
body ripe with Life and Death,
hands pressed to her pelvis and praying
to gods for Help.
Child born on the streets: she
doesn’t know the alley to the hospital.
Wandering between unfamiliar skyscrapers she
meets a serpentine woman who buries stone
shards and promises advice, says she too
traveled the seas with nothing more than three
drachma and a half-cracked spine she stitched
Her name and story, she says, were of mythology,
and the woman-turned-mother asks no further questions.
At the snake woman’s home,
She topples over statues like dominos
to make space
for new embalmment victims,
for Curare stare victims.
She likes them mortal and immortal,
a conjunction: the husk of a machine
without oil running through vein pipes.
To destroy your own creation:
misguided mother Drowns baby
in bathtub, law acute, all she knows
how to cry are curses and piecemeal phrases:
goddamn you / nine months / my child / mine.
She pleads innocence.
They tear her body in two, cleave her tongue in half:
American-learned sent home shackled to ship,
Homeland-versed kept trapped in foreign topography.
Worlds away, a Seraph is reborn.
Orpheus in Bordertown and Eurydice in Abyss
Orpheus in Bordertown
1. Orpheus was named for Greek mythology. Classic tale: hero rewarded in love, maiden suffers as he stumbles. No ailment for him but a grated-over heart, but heroes remarry and recover by dawn.
2. Orpheus liquified words for his parents’ mouths when he translated to their native tongue. They swallowed some and opened their mouths for the rest, unspoken words pooling out. A hereditary oil spill.
3. Orpheus played the piano while sober and the harp while drunk, music a language beyond lines drawn in sand. Sometimes he tried to pull notes from the air and fold them into origami cranes, but they melted in his grip. He could never sink his teeth wholly into permanence, pomegranate staining his mouth red before reaching the seeds.
4. Orpheus fumbled and sold his name like liquor, intoxicating the mind. Every time diluted, every mention mispronounced, it made its way down the foreign market. Syllables blended into one: he profited.
5. Orpheus drove border to border once a year. Bugs splattered his windshield; he mumbled prayers to each and imagined their final buzzing was singing and they died content with music born of their cuticle wings.
6. Orpheus met a girl named for Greek mythology. Untold tale: heroine coerced into love, ended life on her own terms. Wound on her ankle from viper strike but no hurt on her heart. To stay dead, she was content.
They say he didn’t understand the instructions not to turn around.
Eurydice in Abyss
1. Eurydice was named for Greek mythology. Classic tale: hero rewarded in love, maiden suffers as he stumbles. No ailment for him but a grated-over heat, but heroes remarry and recover by dawn.
2. Eurydice walked along the edge of knives Tuesdays at dinner, feet slickened with oil and blood. The secret: don’t care if calluses are clawed off. Wounds feel freshest newly opened; don’t bother letting them heal.
3. Eurydice popped pills in the middle of the day, an internal social experiment. Some shredded her intestines until she could only eat unspoken words. Others frayed her mind until letters brought headaches in their wake. She preferred the ones that did both.
4. Eurydice forgot her name every weekend and borrowed a new one instead. She found it easier to live in another’s mind where the past was fictionalized and the future imaginary. When she returned to her own birth certificate, it never fit right.
5. Eurydice prayed to her own gods. Organized rituals never stuck, not like the privacy of her own room and mind. Invented specific gods for her particular needs, crafted out of desire and desperation. She awaited their answers.
6. Eurydice met a boy named for Greek mythology. Untold tale: heroine tested love but yearned for death instead. Wound on her ankle from viper strike but no hurt on her heart. To stay dead, she was content.
They say she begged him to turn around.
Natalie Hampton is a junior at the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the Creative Writing Department. She has been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, the Harris County Department of Education, the Young Poets Network, the Pulitzer Center, and Ringling College of Art and Design.
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