Circe – Behind the Myth
I'm talking to set the record straight:
A great poet erected my reputation
And you know how they exaggerate.
They loved to call me witch. Sorceress
Was favoured by nicely brought up boys
Too fastidious to curse but full of hate.
These were playground names for a Goddess.
The first echoed their heart's thick juice
Churning on one sound – bitch, bitch
And add to that 'in heat'. Not pretty.
The primal fear inflated sails
Sun glinting off their icy triangles
As they clung sweating to the oars
Evading a life source they saw as a tomb
My unconfined green eyes, my sacred womb.
The Olympians laughed so hard the island shook.
My landlords. Greater gods I must placate
If I couldn't keep their little heroes sated
They'd take my palace, gardens, the aromatic wood
Evict me from my home, have me beg for food
Around the desolate wastelands of Carthage.
My mother had warned me. Never rely
On your face and your body: learn spells.
She struck a deal with that cynic, Hecate
So from eight I would dazzle my school friends
With talking frogs or jet black milk:
The trick I'm famous for came later.
Men into swine. What no-one gets
Is how I gave them their desires
A time minus worry, bestial rut
Though it's not how the bearded bard
Put it down in his epic, it's how it was.
The herbs unlocked a secret key
To remove all human inconveniences
But some stayed as men. Some were lions
Or deer or hunting dogs. I didn't choose.
Don't these mortals love their pets because
They can't abandon them? I do like company
Other than that of drugged and voiceless beasts.
You want to talk about Ulysses, of course.
I'd heard he was a talker, handsome, canny
A cut above the usual buff seafarers.
He sent sparks through my prophetic web
Years before the day we met. When finally
I saw the sail, my fingers shook preparing
The magic banquet. His crew were travel weary
They praised my hospitality
But I couldn't soften my attitude
In case they tried to steal my magics.
I led them, snorting, tearful to the sty.
Wondering when or if he would arrive.
When I returned, wiping the mud from my hands
Another crew man was slumped, bedraggled in my hall
Gratefully he gulped down the potion but still
His human formed remained. I raised my wand
To strike him down – he grabbed my hand
His eyes glittering into mine. Ulysses!
He made to slice me with his sword
I fell onto my knees. 'Great hero' Words
They all like hearing, 'I am a Goddess,
Quicksilver Hermes warned me you would come
To strip me of my powers. But let's not fight:
Put down your weapon, come to bed.'
He raised an eyebrow at this standard move,
Leaned on his scabbard, smoothly done.
'Circe, do you think I'd roll in the hay with you
While my men are rolling, anguished, in your pen?'
I felt the blush rise through my face like Homer's
Endless rosy dawn. His ire was so appealing then
I turned my head away. The crew were full of joy
As soon as I had changed them back. When he
Saw how they'd gained in youth and vigour
He cried. Real tears and he wasn't ashamed.
Circe, your spells have given them relief
They've suffered. I'm to blame. I didn't believe
in prayers or fasting, meditation. Keep going.
Don't be weak. I've pushed not led them.
I stroked his forehead, began to sing
To ease his harsh self-criticism. The men
Were happy to feast in my gilded chairs.
Their leader followed me into my chamber
Casually enough, then put a finger to my lips
And made me swear a vow – to lay my powers low
Leave him his courage while he slept.
I mouthed the oath but had no desire
To steal his strength from him. I felt
He wouldn't harm me and hummed a tune
Blending doves with incense. He seem relaxed
As he took off my robe. Your song is lovely, Circe
But now it's time for us to kiss.
No. I'm not going to comment on his prowess.
He was the father of my children
Went from my enemy to friend, sharing
Pleasure, advice, the island's nightly terrors:
The bleeding walls and bleached out trees.
He comforted me and I got him past
The Siren, the Whirlpool and a demon
Protected him through Hades, ultimately
Sent him safely back home to his wife.
Is this the story your readers want?
I didn't think so but it's true. On OLympus
They used l'amour for their politics or fun
Ulysses, the operator, lied to me just once
But there was trust. And moments which
Those great string-pulling deities
Could not use for their ends. Enough
I'll read your piece when it is done
My agent here will give approval.
And if you feel the need to tweak a bit
Remember I can shift your genes...
Ah. Here's the tea. Another biscuit?