II. One way of looking at it
Sever the notion of quest from blood
and you get girls, leastways if the blood
is othered and the quest is sticky with
swords and snares, beset with spiteful
nymphs and pitiless trials, fool’s gold
guarded by dragon-fire, the road to
illuminant decency – or what passes as –
marked by split skulls, victors gloating
with vainglorious gore.
Women break open skeins in the dark,
hearth-flares dappling the cradles and
spindles, the medicinal tinctures steeping
in secret. Women whisper spells of
protection, weave warnings in threads of
rage and remorse, fly from story to story
on their blackthorn beliefs, brandishing
betony and witch’s bells, concocting,
preserving death-defying lore.
Women revel in blood,
desensitized from spilling so much of it.
They spin by the firesides,
enchanting the crestfallen flames.
They know who to blame
though often unexamined,
self-suppressing shame makes
them fawning in allegiance
to a basso profundo command
from the monster they married
or were sired by and instead
of slaying that particular trial,
they capitulate and cringe and
secretly conspire with each other
and the primeval elements
to withstand the practiced torments
of yet another everlasting wait,
blood spilling into stories,
clotting the quest with eons of ire,
a subtle, straitened fury, with guile
and clues for their daughters
who may one day breathe fire
while their mothers continue to spin
crafty defiance in their graves.
Kate Falvey’s work has been published in many journals and anthologies in the U.S., Ireland, and the U.K.; in a full-length collection, The Language of Little Girls (David Robert Books); and in two chapbooks. She co-founded (with Monique Ferrell) and edited the 2 Bridges Review, which was published through City Tech/CUNY, where she teaches, and is an associate editor for the Bellevue Literary Review.