Nightingale By Martina Dominique Dansereau


Today we have been damage wrapped
in ribbons: silk pulled tight across our cracks,
satin bows blooming over yawning spaces.
Bundled in apologies,             we try not to fall apart.
Today we have been Leda, Cassandra,
Philomela, Medusa:
electric cyclones whirling, trapped
inside stitched skins. Today we have been wreckage.
Man is God, they say. Man is the swan,
Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon.

Here is Cassandra:
refusal sparks in her mouth; he touches
the scorch marks upon his lips and curses her
with insanity.
Woman opens her mouth, and her voice
is birdsong: beautiful, incomprehensible, a language
not understood by mankind.
Woman opens her mouth, and she is caged.
Sing now, little bird, sing
from where they locked you up, from where
each plea tastes more like ashes,
more like trial by fire and looming
court dates,
more like key rings and stilettos
that you only wear because the heels are sharp enough
to be weapons,            more like it wasn’t my fault,
I never asked for this. Little bird,
they will cut out your tongue and call you Philomela.

Incidentally, female nightingales are mute;
only the males of the species sing.
Little nightingale, he will take your lament,
he will twist its words, and his voice
will be the one they hear.
Medusa was once so beautiful that she tempted
God—I mean to say she tempted Man
and was punished for it: a face terrible to behold,
hair of venomous snakes, eyes that could turn flesh
into stone. Her blood, when spilled, birthed
a horned serpent that fed off corpses.
Woman’s mouth opens and she is monster.
Take her head, take her head, cut her down,
quickly, before she bites.
She is grotesque, she is nightmare, but still they
imprison her and call her weakling.

Girl, if we are monsters, let us be lethal.
Take this skin,
write your name on it, slip it
over your shoulders again.
Take this skin,
this terrible, these teeth,
and make them part of you.
Some Greeks believed that Athena was protecting Medusa
when she gave her the power to transform any man
who set eyes on her
into stone.
Tell him, my blood boils with the rage
of a thousand generations.
Tell him, the sight of me is enough to kill.
Tell him, touch me and I will turn your skin
into granite.
Today you have been solidarity, you have been
wrath, you have been woman. You are all that
and more. After all, stone crumbles.
You are everlasting.

By Martina Dominique Dansereau


Martina Dominique Dansereau is a disabled, non-binary lesbian writer and artist whose work centres on trauma and marginalisation, particularly through personal experiences with violence, disability, mental illness, gender, and LGBT issues. When not entrenched in academia or creating art, xe enjoys reading books with xyr snakes, who often fall asleep between the pages. You can find xem on Twitter and Instagram @herpetologics.

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