I was wearing a black silk bone corset off the shoulder department store cocktail dress from 1942 & the river looked clean that day & Canada was so close I felt its wet nose pushing up against my naked clavicle. I burned a 4-inch strand of my brown brown hair until it was rust colored in Julie’s basement that same afternoon, then stained it purple with dye in a metallic silver bottle I bought at Sally’s Beauty at Eastland Mall for $4. You’ll know Hart Plaza by the suspended stone Joe Louis Fist that points toward it like a battering ram & my admission was paid for by cashing in on the bottle deposit of 250 of my parents’ Corona empties. Since the sun was still out I sat under a tree with Michael who came out that August & we shared a lemonade, the kind you get at county fairs that’s filled with lemon halves & costs $6 & only has this much water in it. He was obsessed with Djarum Blacks, they smelled like Christmas set on fire, I had one for the first time. In a near adjacent suburb, my ex-boyfriend, Alex, who came out after college, was sitting at a round table with a white table cloth in a very black suit & too much hair parted on one side, as was the style in 2006. Once it was dark we walked into the concrete earth where the best music was playing & I ate a superman-shaped pill which led to actually dancing, my god, George W. Bush was still president & would be for a while. There was Lauren from Las Vegas who was in my algebra class wearing white & we pushed our bodies together in the softest shimmer of a light & we kissed—it was the first time I kissed a girl which is exactly what everyone dreams will happen at their gay prom. I felt like I was in a movie with glitter on my cheeks & butterflies clipped in my hair & a D.J. playing something swooshy & full of bass. (The last time I saw her was when she moved into her first apartment, a garden unit in the part of town called the Cabbage Patch & it had cement brick walls & we sat on the carpeting & I asked her to turn the radio to 90.9 FM for the nightly jazz program but I can’t even remember her last name anymore.) What I remember is how the crowd looked like one big shadow with thousands of fists rising up. It took an entire day for the yellow white & red lights on Jefferson Avenue to slow down from a smearing beam into a single point & even longer for me to write this down.
Hesiod is credited with writing the Greek creation myth: the chaos of nothing, then suddenly, the earth is a woman. Hesiod is the first known Western author; this, too, is another kind of birth. In your world, everyone is named Hesiod & all of them have the dresses they want. Hesiod grows out their body hair & no one ever stares at their legs. Hesiod wants to wear sequins & tall wigs, but instead, is wearing your white bedsheet like a toga, stained with sweat. Hesiod goes to the salon & reinvents the razor. They shave their own head, smash an umbrella through an SUV’s windshield, says No one is fucking around here anymore. Paparazzi with bulbs exploding in millions of big bangs try to capture it: Hesiod’s transfiguration, Hesiod wild as a swan, Hesiod with all the magnetism of a flat earth, Hesiod’s new beauty flowing off the edge & taking ships with it. Hesiod lifts up their skirt, grabs a grove of crotch & aims it at all of us & the world is a unified gasp, & the world is renamed a creation myth, the nothing of chaos giving way to a birth. Hesiod unhinges their jaw & whispers Daddy & their tongue is a red carpet. Gods parade it, descend to the pink glowing pit of Hesiod’s belly. Each one is a litany of eaten names & mass graves; every story Hesiod tells, now, overthrows the king gods that came before. And when Hesiod’s belly is as swollen as a cosmos, they name it theogony, meaning a world that is born but never dies.
If a queen bee dies, you must try, immediately, to lay an egg.
Hesiod tells this story with knees crossed, a glass of neat bourbon between their palms.
At the start of a story with nothing but beginnings,
the sky’s mouth was so wide it had hips.
The river is as quiet as a needle through thread. Your cycling tape recorder blinks with chirps. Hesiod has removed their wig, their eyelashes, has smudged their face with a soft cotton wipe. The sky looks distant and is glowing dark red.
Oranos wanted to be a king forever, so every night
he fucked Gaia between her oceans, & when she
birthed his children, he’d shove them back inside.
Gaia named her favorite son Cronus, meaning time.
He would eventually kill his king father & become
his king father, like a raised hand replicating itself.
Hesiod finishes the drink, lips puckered and wet. You ask, How did Oranos die? Hesiod lights a cigarette before you can protest, then, exhales:
Gaia asked her favorite son to hide inside her womb
with a scythe, & when Oranos arrived there, his
groin was severed through. Cronus took his
dismembered sex, tossing it into the ocean.
The blood & salt foamed in bright strings of pearls,
like a glass of cold milk, until it formed Aphrodite,
which is a way to say all loveliness is born
of male destruction.
As they say this, they undo the sash of their robe, unfurling the tapestry of their body. Sweating, you want to plunge your maleness like a comet into their belly. You remember Zeus with the force of swan wings. Rain beating against glass. The milk-warm ice is being swilled by Hesiod’s backwash. You ask, What became of Oranos? Hesiod, curtained by the moon, has eyes that spark with the risk of Prometheus, stealing fire for the world:
Like a wet nurse, each night, Oranos kills us a little
by pulling his blue black blanket of cosmos across
Now the street is filled with the split backs of trees. You have a collarbone as sweaty as a downed powerline. Now here comes the lightning. It is the color of bees. You have dreams about it—men in bee costumes come and name you. He. Si. Od. See odd he in the bowl cut fringe on the ice skating rink. Peter Pan comes to mind. At some point, I come into the story, like a morning mist, floating out of a field. I wear an apron filled with walnuts. You & I smash them open with a stone. Meanwhile, the Nutcracker sits by the chimney, waiting for Christmas. As you get home, you throw it into the fire & watch the smoky white beard become a puff. Once the hurricane passes, it will be nothing but nuts for weeks. You’ll mourn every carcass of trunk & every decapitated stump, even when you are the only one left mourning. Everyone else goes back to work, gets married, has strawberry-shaped babies. You go out into the street every day in your black veil & weep. Then, one day, when the growth rings have rotted down to the zero point in history, you go back inside & put on my apron.
When I cosplay as the Oracle
of Delphi, I dip my torso
in vanilla oil until I’m drunk.
I line my eyes with black wings
& massage shimmer cream
into my shoulders and cheeks.
I light my face by a glowing screen
& go live on cam.
I take the username Pythia
& the chatroom is filled with men,
each named guest[number].
They can see me in my bedroom
wallpapered with ferns, how I splay
across the pink satin bedsheets.
I take the name Pythia
after the Oracle who sat
above the fissure of Delphi
& gave me a tarot reading
that predicted my death.
She was the closest thing I’d seen
to a goddess in person,
souvenir tokens of her face
sold at carts for miles
around her. She warned me
I’d die in a temple of Zeus.
guest1256: are you a boy or a girl
My hands are small enough
for chisels. I use them both
to shuffle my tarot deck.
I divide the cards & smash
them back together again.
I cut the cards & pull
one from the mist of intuition.
pythia: the queen of wands
guest9898: take your clothes off
Pythia untucks the towel
like a drape, and I am her,
my flat nipples rouged
by the fumes around me.
pythia: ruled by Andromeda,
nude princess chained
to a rock in the sea.
In my free hand
I turn the wand inward,
push it deep inside me.
The flicker of the chatlog
scatters light like a disco ball.
guest1256: i want to
make you wet,
guest0660: i want to smash
of your throat
I think of Pythia,
with her all-seeing eye,
the deep blue of her iris
staining the skirt of her robes.
I think of her robe
as an opening sky. I try to read
the tasseographs of clouds.
I think of Zeus’s
salt & pepper beard,
how I want to die
lying beneath it, flickers
of white like starlight
as undying as the sky.
The wand vibrates like a summer
lightning storm inside me.
My blood is blushed with buzzing.
pythia: fuck me, daddy fortune, take me
to your grave & my death will make
a temple to you, daddy lightning,
daddy misery, let me light your image
with the light of my effigy
If I’m going to come
then come, Death, come
in my spread, reversed, come
bring slowly building transformation
& rapid ecstasy. Oscillate
my insides into a hum. Coruscate
my night-blank face
with hot white stars.
Stephanie Lane Sutton was born in Detroit. Her short prose can be found in The Offing, Black Warrior Review and The Adroit Journal, as well as in the micro-chapbook Shiny Insect Sex (Bull City Press). Her poetry has appeared in Glass, Tinderbox, and THRUSH Poetry Journal, among others. In 2019, she received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Miami. Previously she lived in Chicago, where she taught performance poetry at Phoenix Military Academy.