Chapter 1: Rabbits Eat Their Children.
No-one knew what to make of Alecto.
She came out of the womb silent,
with hair as blue as the veins that snarled
and snaked their way across her mother’s deflated skin.
Guilty new-old eyes assessed the world,
watched their father blame,
and their mother’s marble crack.
Like a rabbit in the headlights, the nurse said,
those wide eyes. Well, no wonder, you should have seen the child,
some genetic problem I imagine, they should get the news in I said,
make a bit of money, Channel 4 would kill, anyway she didn’t want to hold it,
and no wonder who would expect a thing like that,
she just stared.
At school all days, Alecto hunched bat-boned
chewing questions into bits.
She had no friends, of course,
but friends wouldn’t have her answers anyway.
Whenever she was desperate,
she asked the stars.
Oh great protectors of the heavens! Almighty Jove,
Allah, Jehovah, Cassiopeia-call-me-Cassie,
Alpha Scorpii A, please answer me this time,
I beg of you.
The world rancid. The curdled moon.
(Sometimes her mother’s arms were bruised blue like her hair,
the colour of kingfishers.)
There were answers in10 Need-To-Know Summer Hair tips!
She learnt that if her hair had been as light as her eyes, she would have had friends.
It wasn’t shallow friendship they offered, either,
none of this oh if they can’t see beyond that they’re not worth it
would you really want to be friends with girls like that
it wouldn’t be real friendship.
It was adherence to an ageless rule scarred into shaven legs:
an understanding that the world is cruel
and you are hated even more if you don’t fit in, and I don’t fit in.
One night, curious,
she tried to cut it off, but it grew back heavy and glossy.
She didn’t blame the girls, but she watched them.
They were beautiful, with golden-plated albatrosses
hanging around their necks. The brass rubbing off
turned their skin emerald, but she knew they couldn’t see it.
Alecto is very bright, Alecto has a future,
the teachers said. Everyone has a future, she thought,
and some people are destined to –
[YOU USELESS WHORE]
– turn blue.
When it came, anger came furious and fast. I want to help,
she said, (I want to understand). And they packed her off
to university. Blue-haired, blonde-eyed Alecto.
As if God had been drunk when making her,
as if He had got the adjectives the wrong way round,
and sworn and cast her aside in despair,
in a stork-fog of whisky fumes.
Make us proud, Alecto, said her father. She knew what he meant:
Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you, Alecto.
Her mother did not come to say goodbye. An act which, when translated, may have been either help me Alecto. Or good riddance.
Chapter 2: Alexithymia.
Dear Alecto, I was sorry to hear of your personal loss and am more than willing to give you an extension on next week’s work.
There are things I cannot say.
He should not have asked this of me,
not this. Not today.
Everything since has happened all at once. Paint runs together;
undoable. Untellable. A sparrow’s song
has a beginning
and end. No birds cried for me
when I sat in a field of snow,
snot running down my face.
The coffee was too hot. I remember the steam;
funny, the things you remember.
I had nothing to say.
Like Cordelia, I had failed to prove my love,
and must watch her slip away.
Chapter 3: The Forgotten Thoughts of a Suicide’s Daughter: A Eulogy.
Dear friends and relatives gathered here today:
Sometimes the only way to say something
is to talk about another thing entirely.
If I forget that my mother is dead,
don’t be alarmed. I do know.
He hit her, you realise,
and I didn’t know what to say.
Words come too late, now my mother is dead.
It was not my fault. Persephone’s cold hair
heralds the spring, but she is not to blame
for the earth’s sobs, is she? Fanged flowers
tearing their mother’s womb open? Hades watching,
(who is the real killer here?)
Every time I see a woman flinch,
There are fangs inside my skin. Like barbed wire.
My mother flinched. Now my mother is dead.
Chapter Four: Erinyes
The collective noun for a group of girls is a bruise.
The collective noun for a gang of girls is an ache,
a hug, a sympathy. An outcast of girls. A violence of girls,
a fang of girls. A snarl of girls. Alecto and her friends:
Megaera and Tisiphone.
(Alecto with friends!)
She said we must do something
and they bought a house. The money her mother had died with.
They took in women.
Alecto with her soft blue hair and fury,
Alecto with her medical degree
and her knowledge of the way anger boils beneath the skin.
Standing in front of a court and staring at the man whose sperm
greasy and white
once formed her bones. Confessing his sins for him: a sea-wave woman
bitter as tears, strong as salt. Her friends behind her. Arms gesturing like
wings unfurling. Like a spiral of smoke. Like an unstoppable wound. A Fury of girls.
Alice Wickenden is a PhD student, writer, and poet. She has written on teaching and reading rape in the Times Higher Education and the Brixton Review of Books. She has poetry in Anthropocene and Cypress and a forthcoming chapbook with Variant Literature called To Fall Fable. She frequently writes reviews for Totally Dublin and has forthcoming pieces with the TLS. Her cat is called Cordelia: it’s a test to see whether you think of Buffy, Brideshead, or King Lear. The real answer is a poem: it’s all three.