|I never asked for the gift.
I wanted to be equal, not different.
Apollo came unbidden, a vulgar wolf,
I still taste his spittle on my lips.
I saw where the gods cradle our future,
and when I pressed clammy hands upon my eyes,
they all chanted my name, Cassandra,
Cassandra, as if they lived inside my head.
And so it came that I knew.
Paris, retrieved from a bag,
I perceived your part.
Helena, you Spartan spectre,
I had reason to refuse believing in you.
My people, I never envisioned your graves,
only flames, fierce and furious.
You chose the easy way.
You saw words creeping from my mouth
like venomous snakes I'd suckled for years.
The accusation "traitress" twined around me like ivy,
strangling my smile, the songs I used to sing.
I ceased to be my father's favourite daughter,
by cabinet decree. I, Cassandra, an affair of state,
while my sisters were noted for their charms,
their long thick braids, majestic gait.
Troia, I warned you, my voice shrill,
not my own, but when I came around,
you had already turned your back,
except a few who remained to point
their fingers at my foaming mouth.
You and I, Troia, an unhappy love affair.
Nothing I said made any difference to your life.
To mine, it did.
|you no longer lean against that tree
to watch me, adam. i bathe in privacy,
and when i touch myself,
only my own breath quickens.
at night, my bed is empty,
not one shadow in my chamber could be yours.
moonlight is wasted on this garden;
i'm the only two-legged creature it attracts.
are you locked up composing compliments?
payment is overdue - my mirror tells me
no more than what i make it say, it's dull;
yet it could learn from your example.
how many apples must i offer,
adam? my basket is overfull.
are you harvesting your own,
or buying at the market?
or have you gone and tried
some other fruit, a shameless red,
a garish green: one sweet bite
that made our lives turn bitter?
|She could be just a simple girl:
a maid-servant resting at the village well,
her pitcher still empty in the Appenine dust.
Her hair, braided into invisibility,
could have fallen as a curtain
beneath a lover's hands.
Her mouth might have stolen kisses
during summer siestas,
sucked out the sweetness of grapes
instead of closing around the body of Christ,
her tongue clinging to the dusty tang
like a pale leaf to fly paper.
The garment gives it all away,
this prison of her flesh, porcelain white,
that could have known a pain less bitter,
a joy that comes before death.