Ode to Lady Macbeth

Dayna Patterson

I have given suck, and know
How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me.
—Lady Macbeth

A kindercremation. A foot-long pyre.
Before we cry villain, let’s caution closer—
Look: a bonfire of violins, varnish blistering
elegant F holes, strings snapping as they burn.

Too soon after the funeral, weyward sisters,
sybilline, stir cauldrons of rumors,
ignite her kindling. Bereaved, she summons
murdering ministers, sightless

substances, to replace her dead
baby’s milk with gall (see BITTERNESS,
DEEP RESENTMENT, BILE). Grieved, she pours
her spirits into henchman husband’s ear.

Let’s not be too quick to demonize her
or her sisters: Lilith entwining a serpent.
Delilah clipping Samson’s hair.
Jael’s tent peg driven deep into skull.

In the end, can’t we morsel some pity
for her madness? Somnambulant. Unconscious confessor.
Sleep-mocker. In white she wanders, tissue in wind.
Rush of rust. She can’t hide from herself

the stench of blood. Suicide? Or did Hecate grant
she melt into element? In whispers, let’s say she
escaped as screech owl, clacking her bone beak,
a dark sweep across night’s milky veil—


Dayna Patterson is a consulting editor for Bellingham Review, poetry editor for Exponent II Magazine, and founding editor-in-chief of Psaltery & Lyre. She is a co-editor (with Tyler Chadwick and Martin Pulido) of Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (Peculiar Pages Press 2018). Her poetry has appeared recently in Hotel Amerika, Sugar House Review, Western Humanities Review, and Zone 3, among others. You can discover more at www.daynapatterson.com.