Medea / Priya Sarukkai Chabria

I

She loved her children.
But loved Jason more.

She killed her children
‘Cause she couldn’t kill him.

She won’t be broken
She’s been promised.

She’s a shield,
Sorceress, snake, lover.

Her body folds like iron in the forge
When she thinks of him. She mustn’t.

She is fire in the desert,
The spiral of the wind.

She is an oasis
Of love gone wrong, gone ripe, gone to seed

Her blood’s lava that’s curdled

II

She sees him all the time, everywhere, her look brands him even
As he turns to hide. There’s nowhere he can run except to the other

Side, become traitor, become what she was once when he arrived
On her shore, become her with eyes of gold that never close, never

See the night; its mantled stars shine through the hours, spangle
In her unbroken vow: To love.  Love him as none has ever loved

 Before. He knows she does no wrong and never will, her love pure
As viper’s venom that men may not touch lest it kill, and kill she will,

Kill him, kill their love, she, Medea will. Jason falls on his knees, circles
On all fours, circles himself to bite the tail he does not have, circles

His love that gores but will not let him go, makes him a plaything of
Himself. Jason yowls. It rises and falls on him like a tent collapsing;

Netted beast he spins on the sand, a jackal, leftover of himself, until
He knows what will protect him: the Golden Fleece – once someone

Else’s, now his, his cloak, his hide, his smell.  His fit. It swaddles Jason
In dreams of honeyed wine and women with armpits like sunsets wild

With glow and scent; Jason pulls the Fleece tight over him, as if he’s
The Sheep. Medea watches from afar, from a cliff fringed by a frolicking

Sea, her elbows rest on a table strewn with pomegranate seeds and wine.
She stares at him till she can stare no more; her love’s too heavy, her

Scream so silent only the bats hear and drop from branches in their
Sleep; grief churns its dark gruel in her veins, her uterus bleeds. She twists

Her head so Jason can’t suspect she weeps for him; for them; knots of Pearls, salt and sea urchin spikes her tears. Medea longs to grant her

Love respite. But no. It lopes, it lunges. She gives it her empty arms to feed
And laves her wounds in the unshed glitter of her eyes, unable to arouse

 His plunged manhood, his pride lost and craving; how he pleads to win
It back, whatever the cost in ewe’s milk, ram balls, firstling heifer, slaves,

Coins of gold and dust. Jason grovels. Medea tears settle in her wounds like violets.
She pulls her sight to the other side and stares at grass which shrivels at her gaze.

III

Jason feels spring’s sweet draft lift him, Jason the Argonaut, a hero yet,
Returning with laurel leaves wreathing his cheeks in their chill spicy sap.
Yes, he says, he’ll take Glauce’s hand, he’ll wed the princess. Yes, Medea,

Vengeful Circe’s niece will understand, he swears. She, Medea his queen Of years, unrivalled, honoured; yes, it’s true his throne he owes to her;
His sorceress queen will understand.  Jason’s nostrils flare like a stallion’s

Sniffing a mare when he scents the princess fair, her toes pink shells, Tendrils swirling around her cheeks, body soft as cheese soaked in densest
Honey, Glauce — she’ll twirl around him, dance, sing, her breasts like cresting

Waves, milk foam; she, young thing, can be blindfolded; she will sleep at Ease and let him rest. Medea mustn’t guess until it’s too late for her to cast
A spell, too late for her to move from the new fort he’ll build to hold her still.

She’ll pace in its prison in purple robes on sandals made of unborn kid. He’ll
Declare a festival for Medea, offer libations to the princess from the forgotten land of his youth, Medea who swore her life to him, his shield and spear, his Crown.

The princess laughs as she sips her wine; each sip makes Jason stronger, More in command.  The marriage will be kept secret till he’s taken her soft
Body, her bliss as his. Jason thinks snow is warm and fire sweet to touch.

IV

Medea knows.  Each hair stands up like a spindle. She unpicks each thread,
Thread by thread, from the coverlet of their wedding bed. She rolls herself
In it like a dog with ticks. Sets it alight to char to death. It quells. Her fire’s
Wilder. It leaps to lick her face, drips from the tips of her long black hair,

Bracelets her wrists in rings of red, spurts from the small wet cone of her
Weeping sex; it will not sleep.  It sings to her the old songs she swore she
Had forgotten when she fled her land, Jason’s arm around her waist, she
Standing on the rolling ship, eyes on the horizon that trembled like their

Wedding sheet.  It scorches the years of them together, burns her tongueSo she can’t speak. Only curses snake through her lips. Memory opens its wide Dark throat; Medea walks within it. Swoons in its vast wet abyss, its bitter
Treacle covers her, recovers her. Revives. Medea’s heart is seeped, steeped

In poison of bitter vetch, wasp tingle, toad’s horn and that unspeakable thing: her Love, her love, her love for him. It stings her each pore from within. She rolls on Thorns to calm herself, stuffs her mouth with mud. Medea is all alone. The sun Eats the sky and disappears.  She sees her refection in the void. Its smile so calm.

V

Medea soaks her hands in ewe’s milk that hasn’t birthed before. She weaves.

She pins the bride’s dress to dawn’s rosy light. It sparkles even more.

She dips the dress in poisonous portents. She sings spells on it as it dries.

It dries slowly.  Each poison droplet a ruby tear, each spell a tiny bell. 

She folds the dress in a cloth of purple wrapped with anise stems.

She sends it to her husband.

Jason, my love, if you ever loved me accept this present from your wife.

I wish you flames of joy.

The bride wears it. Ignites like a golden flower. Her screams ignite the hall.

Jason’s eyes, like Medea’s, cannot look away.  He’s a pillar now.

Medea sharpens the knife, sharpens, sharpens it. No pain!

She kisses her children one by one, their skin lightly furred as a fig’s.

Slides the knife into their soft silken throats.  From side to side she slices.

She rubs their sweet warm blood on her face. Her hair. She’s ready.

She kindles fires in every room. Coaxes twigs to burn. Flames to fan.

Jason stirs.  Runs. His house in flames. The children, quite within. 

On his knees again Jason cries, Kill me but spare my children. Spare them!

From the rooftop she dangles their copses, one by one.

 Their heads tilt helplessly beneath tumbling curls.  Throats gore.

Medea says: You do not know my language anymore. 

No one will learn my tongue.

She flaps her robes. Smoke billows her on its wings. She soars.

Priya Sarukkai Chabria is an awarding winning translator of medieval Tamil mystic poetry; long and short speculative fiction on writing, sex, history and our past lives as animals; a book of non-fiction and poetry. Her third poetry collection Calling Over Water is forthcoming by the year end. Her work is published in Adelphiana, Another English: Anglophone Poetry From Around the World, Drunken Boat, Asymptope, The Literary Review, The Best of Asian Speculative Fiction,The Literary Review among others. She edits Poetry at Sangam http://poetry.sangamhouse.org/

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