Phoebe Stuckes

Cassandra, A Journey Into The Underworld

 

1.
I know a bad boy when I see one, the problem is
I want to cradle their heads in my lap.
It’s easy to confuse a man with a God,
an axe with a gift. Sometimes desire
has nothing to do with you
it just gets angled towards your shape.
I expect to come to a sticky end
lately I see myself strangled to death
on a velvet banquette, my fishnets ripped
and my eyes rolled back to the whites.
Shall I work backwards? The man
who almost dissolved me
found me asleep. Your honour
I was alone when it happened.

After, I was alone with my questions
Where did I get these green and yellow
flowers at my wrists, or this
handful of violets at my throat?
Why is my bottom lip swollen?
I said no didn’t I? did I say no this time?

After, I locked myself in the bathroom
there was a strange girl in the mirror
Your honour, I think I left her there.
The past never stays
where you put it.
Last week
I heard him laughing
from the other side
of an empty shopping centre.
I lost three days. Ever since
I feel it all unravelling,
the whole muck of history
is coming out my mouth in ribbons.

2.
Hundreds of years ago
I was drowned in a bathtub
for exactly the same reasons.
A scream lives under my pelvis,
lodged since childhood,
waiting to be cracked open.
Shall I work backwards?
I used to walk around
in the dark all the time
and while they cried out to me
their hands never touched me.
I went wherever I pleased
in my silver heels, I could not
be caught in their fingers.

3.
After, mad girl starts driving the bus and I
put up my feet up on the dashboard.

Mad girl says
how much for a baseball bat?
She says flat shoes
she says keys in the knuckles
she says door locked from the inside
she says check the wardrobe check
under the bed. Mad girl says
can you walk me home
please can you walk me home
can you stay on the line while I walk home.

Mad girl says he is not a god anymore
but I could still become one.
She says he’s pretty mouthy for a hallucination.
She says this is my house, she says are you scared?
What are you a ghost? You don’t know shit
about being dead, I have been dead.
Have you ever sunk your hands
into the ashes that were once the house?
I have been there.

Mad girl says it wasn’t my fault
Mad girl says it was never my fault.
She says it doesn’t matter if you believe me
she says I’d chip his name off the granite
next to yours with my fingernails if I had to.

Mad girl says half of you wouldn’t know a wolf
if it had it’s jaws around your ankle. Mad girl
says wolves come in all shapes and sizes, that’s
why you set traps. Mad girl says she’s wolf-proof.

AWOOOOOOOOOOO AWOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOO AWOOOOOOOOOOO

Mad girl says I wouldn’t have survived
any other time. I would’ve died
of consumption, childbirth, cotton in the lungs,

boredom, strangled with my own
petticoat. They would’ve had us lobotomised.
She says we’re lucky, she laughs, lucky.

4.
Mad girl says they’re going to come here,
with their torches and pitchforks.
They will come here, the lawyers, the questions,
the cops, the bastards, they will never stop coming.

They will come here, the wives, in defence
of their husbands. They will deafen you
if you let them. They will pour the molten gold
of their wedding rings down your throat
if you let them. Do not let them.

5.
Her predictions are so sick
no one wants to hear them.
Who wants to be given a pram
smeared with blood and ashes?
Your own death tied up in ribbons
and cellophane, a bundle of snakes.
Always the snakes. Her name
is practically a hiss. She said
they licked the chambers of her ears
open, and why should you fear them?
She asked, men have done me worse-
wrongs than snakes.
Mad girl is always correct,
though she is rarely heard.
She talks and talks, she talks
until she screams. Until she talks
until she starts again.

6.
The jury have some questions for the victim.
Did he put his hands
straight through you
like smoke?
Did it snap
something in you,
like thread?
Are you carrying it
on your back like a whole
other person?
Is the deadweight
of his name sticking
in your throat?
Do they ask you
if you know him?
Has he kept you
that secret?
Are you supposed
to have evidence?
The embers
of your wishes?
your no
smashed
into a million pieces?
Why don’t you speak?
Why can’t you stop speaking?
You are deafening us
with your screaming.
Could you point
to where the pain is?
Could you tell him
he did this?
If you saw him,
could you run
If you saw him,
could you run?

7.
Watch me.
Let me work backwards.
This prophecy is the noise
I make when kicked.
I have come from the dead
to pester the living,
to show them the ways
that they failed me.
I’m dancing on snakes
high up on my thunder thighs.
I used to be slender as a thought, now
he’d tremble to pass me on the street,
as he should. He’d have to cut me in half
to lift me up. When my cat
brings me dead things, I eat them.
I have made murals
from my own blood.

I have told you the truth.
My eyes are the quiet centre
of the hurricane, the voice
on the other end of the line
is his own cry for help and it says
you have nothing to fear
in this world except me.

 

Phoebe Stuckes is a writer and performer. She has performed at the Southbank Centre, The British Library and was the Ledbury Festival young poet in residence in 2015. Her poetry has appeared in The Rialto, The North and Ambit. Her debut pamphlet, Gin & Tonic, was shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award.