I started writing a story about Clytemnestra years ago. This morning, I woke up thinking about her. Thinking about her name and how difficult it is, how unpretty. You’d have to be a queen of no small stature to pull off such a name. Since she is a fictional character, I feel at liberty to reimagine her, to lift her out of the culture a little bit, enough to consider how terribly the stories treat her. Is Clytemnestra truly the story of the passing of matriarchy as some scholars posit? The Clytemnestra we know most familiarly is the one Aeschylus created out of the older stories. There are many versions of the story. In some, she is exiled instead of executed. In some stories, her sister Helen is Polydeuces twin, in others Polydeuces and Castor are twins. The stories are ambiguous and contradictory as are the most useful mythologies. We have to make them our own. Thread together what makes sense to us and disregard the rest understanding that what we take from these myths are what we comprehend of life and that is an ever-changing mirror.
The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the story.
Helen and Polydeuces began one night while our mother, Leda, slept in the room that Castor and I shared. It was not uncommon for her to sleep there. She often did so when Father was away looking for allies.
Castor slept in the cradle next to mine. I could see his face clearly because the moon was uncovered and the touch of its light had awakened me. Beyond Castor, I could see the outline of my mother as she slept on her back, one arm flung above her head, her hair a thick black streak falling over the edge of her bed. A shadow crept slowly across the path of the moon. A sudden wind rose and pushed against the outside walls of our room. It funneled in through our window, roughing my cheek Continue reading "Clytemnestra"
The Israeli poet is American born. Israel, she says is ancient. Everything is old there, the buildings, the streets, the temples, monuments, cemeteries, hills, the sea — old, old, old. She feels the age of it like a line of descendance. It passes through her now. She is connected to the past and the future through that line. She has a role in the passage of history. A certain future will exist because of her, like those behind her, she is creating worlds.
She lives in the Settlements, so she is also connected to the destruction of worlds. Certain futures will not exist because she is there. She has made a choice to be there, to be part of the making and unmaking of worlds.
For now, she is on the winning side of the wall. Perhaps that is all the justification she requires of herself to remain there. Continue reading "Lines of Descendance"
The sun is in the east, backlighting the slender blond haired woman in ponytail cutoff jeans a lightweight jacket over her torso. One leg is bent a the knee, the other straight. She dangles a cigarette from her right hand. A man with a bicycle stands a few feet from, and to the south, of her. The man sits motionless astride the bike, his broad back covered in a black t-shirt, wearing jeans, head bald, skin sun-browned or brown-brown.
As I near them, she bends. I think she is putting out her cigarette, but she is picking something up off the ground. Pennies. And, as I pass, she says, “I’m going to need some luck today.” Or did she say, “everyone needs some luck”?
She might have been a prostitute. Certainly there are those who would make that assumption. But what does that say about who she is really, or even what she is? Her story, her existence is so long and so deep, I can’t say anything about it. I can only see this moment, when she bent from the waist and her ponytail fell down along her arm and the sun lit it up and lit up the line of her forearm as sweetly as a sun ever kissed anyone.