Hadas, Pamela White

United States, (b. 1946)

Circe

  1. for “Perseus”
  2.  
  3. I
  4.  
  5. [Circe and Odysseus confront each other. He has come to her palace
    to retrieve his crew, all but one of whom she has turned into swine.]
  6.  
  7. Because your men were making pigs of themselves,
  8. that’s why. And for fun.
  9.  
  10. Notice, there’s room in the sty
  11. for at least one more—beast.
  12.  
  13. Look sharp!—
  14. Those wolves—
  15. I made them, the lions too—they’ve come to stay
  16. though they think like men (I didn’t change their minds)
  17. that they can cajole me—
  18. what oinks and whines!—
  19. with gutsy purrs to break the spells.
  20. It lends
  21. a certain pathos to the place—no?
  22. The sun’s
  23. my father. I inherited his lack
  24. of pity—
  25. only a degree of power—
  26. like him
  27. I love to captivate—
  28. in my way—
  29. turn back
  30. evolution a bit now and then—
  31. a whim.
  32. But you look antsy—you look mad in fact.
  33. Come in.
  34. Let’s talk.
  35. It’s only the first act.
  36.  
  37. II
  38.  
  39. Yes, that’s my loom in the hall.
  40. I sing and weave . . .
  41. uh . . . curtains—
  42. most middle-class witches do
  43. to some extent,
  44. No, you mustn’t leave—
  45. stay.
  46. Wallow for a while.
  47. I may spare you
  48. the pain of sailing home alone.
  49. Disarm
  50. yourself.
  51. Tell me about your battles or
  52. your loves—show me you can match my charm
  53. and maybe I’ll relent.
  54. Here, let me pour
  55. you a drop of honey wine—Aeaea’s own.
  56. Aeaea: Land of Wailing.
  57. I didn’t name
  58. the place.
  59. It’s also known as “Isle of Dawn.”
  60. I wish you’d stay for it.
  61. You must.
  62. Don’t blame
  63. me, Darling . . .
  64. Sleepy?
  65. (Here’s one final touch
  66. I hate to give.)
  67. So much for that.
  68. So much . . .
  69.  
  70. III
  71.  
  72. [But Hermes has given Odysseus the moly flower—a kind
    of rue—whose fragrance protects him from Circe’s spell.]
  73.  
  74. It doesn’t change you!
  75. Damn—who gave you rue—
  76. pure petals and soot black root, the one
  77. brash plant I can’t outcharm.
  78. But—entre nous—
  79. I’m kind of glad.
  80. I’ve wanted a distraction
  81. from the usual makeshift metamorphosis
  82. I do.
  83. If you want to know—
  84. I’ve had it up
  85. to here in half-lit halt-wit magic trash—
  86. this living debris—
  87. you see—my empty cup
  88. runneth over:
  89. abracadabra———gush.
  90. I didn’t really want revenge.
  91. Did you?
  92. No stock in men—
  93. no men in stock—
  94. seduce
  95. me now if you can.
  96. Unbutton me, undo
  97. a loneliness.
  98. I’ll wear the moly flower
  99. in my hair—
  100. mercurial gift,
  101. mercurial cure.
  102.  
  103. IV
  104.  
  105. I made both palace and zoo with words.
  106. I talked
  107. myself into them, made words things,
  108. and now
  109. beyond all that—
  110. well, there you are.
  111. You’re not
  112. one of the phantoms.
  113. I’ll have to let you go.
  114. So there you are.
  115. Your crew is all brought round.
  116. Let’s celebrate my broken wand.
  117. Here’s wine
  118. (it’s safe), a bath, a purple quilt . . .
  119. We’re found
  120. and lost in luxury—
  121. ruse-lovers, twine
  122. to be.
  123. Even so, please know
  124. I know you will
  125. leave me . . .
  126. quite speechless.
  127. think perhaps you dreamed
  128. and tell Penelope so.
  129. I see it all—
  130. that’s the curse of my kind, to see:
  131. You’ll say I schemed
  132. to keep you.
  133. Please say now it isn’t true.
  134. You want . . .
  135. you want to dance with me,
  136. don’t you?
  137.  
  138. V
  139.  
  140. [After a year of pleasure it is time for Odysseus to set
    sail again for Ithaca, and Circe offers her assistance.]
  141.  
  142. I send you to Teiresias because you must
  143. know what you are about.
  144. You’ve made enough
  145. false starts.
  146. I’ve taught you this and a little trust
  147. in love and play’s not a bad thing.
  148. But love
  149. and play alone can’t get you home,
  150. so run
  151. along:
  152. with the North Wind to the Ocean Stream
  153. to the stand of willows that that great yawn
  154. Persephone loves—
  155. so much—
  156. then kill a ram
  157. and ewe the color of sun eclipsed
  158. (which I
  159. will kindly provide—
  160. my love—
  161. as an offering
  162. to Hell without you).
  163. Make sure you wave away
  164. all the blood curious ghosts all clustering
  165. for sips and thrills;
  166. then wait for the prophet—he
  167. will gulp some blood,
  168. then tell you about the sea.
  169.  
  170. VI
  171.  
  172. As if you didn’t know.
  173. Your end must come
  174. from it—
  175. the waves around Aeaea now
  176. are rife with it—
  177. no matter.
  178. Take it from
  179. me—you won’t believe it.
  180. So you go—
  181. and so it goes—
  182. with you—mortality—
  183. double trouble . . .
  184. Self-pity stinks.
  185. Here, take
  186. this—it’s a breeze, really—
  187. to nudge you on
  188. toward Perpetual Dusk . . .
  189. Please stop
  190. on your way back.
  191. That was quick.
  192. Now off again—
  193. sinking twice—
  194. I can’t get over it.
  195. Three sons . . . I
  196. wish . . . Kiss me.
  197. Now.
  198. A last word of advice:
  199. Shut out Sirens—
  200. bitches compared to me.
  201. So long.
  202. The willows’ sea crows know this much:
  203. even a witch can feel—
  204. the finishing touch.

© Pamela White Hadas. Designing Women. Alfred A. Knopf, (1979).

About the Poet

Pamela White Hadas (b. 1946) is a U.S. poet, author and playwright. Hadas was born in Holland, Michigan and received her Bachelor, Masters, and Doctoral degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. She has published four collections of poetry as well as a several books of criticism.

Hadas’ poems employ the dramatic voice of monologue and often function as performance pieces as well as poems. She is recognized for her skill in developing the voice of historic, unusual women. [DES-11/10]

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