speak (the love song of lady emilia)

Published in the zine Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On in September, 2017.

 

she is thirteen years old when she becomes her body.

it happens suddenly – like a butcher’s knife, slicing clean the head of a chicken for her father’s banquet.  one morning she looks in the mirror and stops.  traces the curves of her hips, blooming out red as a sunset over the canal.  the curves of her hips, her waist, her breasts –

breasts are merely lumps of flesh and yet they haunt her.  they dance, they sing, they cry out.  she walks with her sister in the street and cannot stop watching them – shaded in green or purple or blue, in cotton or silk or wool – her fingers ache to reach out and slide along their curves and within –

within the halls of her father’s house she meets him.

he is a friend of her brother, a skinny boy they call clever – he can turn any word sideways on its axis and make a game of it.  the fire dances reflected in his eyes as she jests with him, her sharpened couplets against his winding prose, soft consonants transfigured in his mouth –

mouth she sees later shrouded in shadow tracing the planes of her brother’s chest.  her eyes catch his against the firelight and she wants –

wants the shadow and the nearness and the flesh, wants to hide herself behind a tapestry and explore new constellations – the girl who works at the flower stall in the market or the woman her mother invited for dinner or the playmate she once had who bloomed lovely or –

she is alight with possibility.

his eyes catch hers against the firelight and he smiles – a word turned sideways on its axis, a world turned –

turned as the head of the girl at the market when she shimmers past in a golden skirt, chest blooming eyes glinting in the morning sun – as the clock from atop her bedside table thrown by shaking more violent than any earthquake – smashing in a chorus of chimes – this world is on fire and she would face king and country to stand in the embers –

embers smolder in the fireplace as he offers her a deal.

he will take the sister for her brother.  a tie to shield from wandering eyes and let the shadows feast.  she is nodding before he can even finish his sentence –

sentences rise up and solidify like pillars of earth as she stands, white dress long train lilies in her hair.  she stands without armor or sword, easy to cut down – easy retribution when a brother finds his own wife and a sister is no longer acceptable currency –

currency slips out of her pockets as the shadows slink and shift, the firelight melts back to coal.  she walks the stalls of the market – green or purple or blue, cotton or silk or wool – but her slippers are leaden now, her sentences bookended, her evenings curtailed at midnight –

midnight is dangerous when one has married a monster.

she thinks sometimes he forgets he has a wife – he brings her out at state dinners, meetings, before his friends behind his general – polishes her and sets her upon the mantle with the best china – builds his cathedral around her and locks her in suffocating earth –

earth moves slower now, like the tone of his voice.  he used to speak in prose, now he marches in verse, keeps his accent behind seven curtains and a thick stone door.  he is a man only sometimes – else he is a shadow, slinking in and out as she withers within –

within the halls of her monster’s house she meets her.

desdemona is the daughter of royalty and the figment of a goddess’ kindest dream.  she speaks unencumbered – without metaphor without hyperbole without curtain – and when emilia hears her she feels the glow of the firelight the earth spinning beneath her the shadowed walls expanding –

expanding is easy when one has found a voice.  desdemona says she will go to cyprus and emilia says she will follow – the monster plays a husband but she sees how he watches his general, lips parting as though to taste –

taste the salt of the air, the meat roasted fresh, the blood from mosquitoes hungry for something new.  desdemona says she will never betray her husband and emilia says she would rather win riches – her world is weighed down draped in shadow but desdemona’s is bright as the moon –

desdemona’s is lit by a thousand fires and emilia would face country and monster to stand in the embers –

this is not the first time he has murdered her.

he has thrust wet and wanton, bold and red as a devil dancing souls into screaming depths.  he has thrust cold and sharp, verse turned back to biting prose as he hammered out the precision of her stone walls.  he has thrust quiet and shadowy as he turned his general’s world on its axis and he thrusts now fiery as a greek chorus – he cuts away her shadows her earth her flesh and leaves her blazing.

if he is not what he is, she is the space between his nothing and his taking.  if she has married a monster, she is half-monster – he has thrust within her and drawn her heart out – left her to examine it red and bulbous and beating like an ancient drum – left her to smear it across his shadow.

she opens her mouth and her heart pours forth.

let heaven and men and devils, let them all

all, all, cry shame against me, yet I’ll –

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