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?