Cassiopeia the Queen
I never saw the “vain queen”—Andromeda’s mother,
Cepheus’ wife, but a twister: violent vortex
terrorizing muliebral souls in the Northern sky.
(This fire and brimstone, perversion
of gospel, was begotten years before
we moved to Indiana.)
Instead of celebrating first kisses
it dug storm cellars, obsessed over
hemlines and hymens like wall clouds.
If the Lord was coming soon,
didn’t I need to be ready?
What did I have to give up to be caught up in the clouds?
So I trimmed my wick, packed an emergency kit:
a prayer journal, Bible, and a wilted touch-me-not
I’d stored in my ballerina jewel box.
It played “You Light Up My Life”
each time I opened the lid
to stare at the one worldly thing I couldn’t part with.
Thirty years later, why? What was I thinking,
making death my constellation
when the universe is resonant, vibrating?
Maybe the spellbound dancer only ever needed
my woman’s hand to pirouette.
How many nights did she twirl me to sleep,
spinning like Cassiopeia? Her only debt:
exulting snowy ankles,
brandishing chipped-paint hair.
It’s taken me longer than most to become a tornado.
Longer still to become a queen.
But for my own daughter, for the girl I was,
for the millions of women trapped
in cycles of abuse perpetuated
by chauvinist men and gods, this need to fight.
Listen. You will never strap me to a chair again—
force this goddess to live out eternity
clinging and turning from made-up sins
when all I want is one night, one boast.
One beautiful clear night.