Zoe Mitchell, Cassandra’s Body

Act I: Apollo’s Retribution

We interrupt all our standard broadcasts
to bring news of a senseless attack.

Police are keeping the media back
from the scene where many innocents died

but there are reports that a beardless youth
with ancient eyes detonated a bomb

packed with a biological agent.
Cruel arrows of fire and poison rained down

on the docile crowd. A plague descended
like a hungry wolf from a mountaintop.

Act II: Dying declaration

Nemo moriturus praesumitur mentiri

When you look at what I’ve done, know that she
conspired with ravens and made me do it.

That’s the way the world works, spun into war
by the ingratitude of weak women.
That’s what men, women and children die for.

Such treachery — I saw it all coming
and struck before another hammer fell.

This has happened before and will happen
again, until everyone understands
that a man must show his leonine face,

strike and ascend on eagle wings, or die
in the righteous attempt, bearing his teeth.

Act III: The Town Square

It’s day three. After the devastation
we turn now to some men to talk this through.

The man’s wife was brought in by police
and then released after reports emerged

that he beat her. If I can start with you,
sir, she claims she didn’t know his plans, claims

that his cries that she made him do it were lies
he told himself but there are whispers that

she knew. Does that add up for you?
There’s protection for women like her,

she chose not to take it. Our children died here.
We can’t know for sure what’s true without proof

of what really happened behind closed doors.
She must accept that couples argue, that’s a fact.

If we’re looking to lay blame, some must fall
on her. She saw this horror coming and did nothing.

Act IV: Official Caution

You brought me here after my brother called
and told you that I knew the man. It’s true,
I knew him and his violence. I knew
and I must look at what I knew he’d do.

When we met, his bright charm enthralled me,
so handsome it was like staring at the sun.
He appeared to me elegant as music
and offered me a future. But too soon,

seduction turned to frustration. He spat in my face.
You ask why I didn’t leave sooner.
It starts with the slightest misalignment –
a small spill dries and brushes off like sand

until it piles up in every corner
and blocks the door. I was as afraid
of the outside world as the simmering
pot of home. I was one line of defence.

My upturned palms are scored with what came next,
my body is a map you can survey.
Scars point their jagged arrows to future
detonations, my bruises boom caution.

The truth courses through my limbs, leaks a red
warning from each fresh wound. I absorbed
all I could and tried to muffle the blows
and now I know, too late, that it’s too late.

Act V: Exile

Where I am now is no better, or worse.
Nothing makes much difference. He said
I made him do it and people take him
at his word, see it as my fate to bear

his rage behind closed doors. No one minds
savage hands when they aren’t touched by the blows.
I knew that the time would come when
my body was not enough territory –

violence is insatiable. This truth coiled
around my throat like a snake and choked me
back to silence. Tell me what I should have said,
and how? What theatrics should I have used?

Now they rape my memories with such force,
stone statues would turn their cold eyes away
in pity. He said I made him do it
and people have chosen to believe him.

Of course, I saw all of this coming –
how men choose to ignore all the tears
salted with warnings; they never listen
to women’s voices. I understand.

If I exhaled the breath inside my chest
it could drive people mad. Still my lungs
keep on wheezing. spent air. Have mercy.
I am one woman living in Cassandra’s body.

Zoe Mitchell is a widely-published poet whose work has been featured in a number of magazines including The Rialto, The London Magazine, and The Moth. She graduated from the University of Chichester with an MA in Creative Writing and was awarded a Distinction and the Kate Betts Memorial Prize. She is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, examining witches in women’s poetry. In 2018, she was joint winner of the Indigo First Collection Competition and her first collection Hag was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.


Read more of Zoe here.

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