Harpy—Katharine Blair

Bird bodied, girl-faced things
they are; abominable
in their droppings, their hands are talons,
their faces haggard with hunger
– Virgil

The men are taking liberties again. Laying hands
and eyes and plans with no concern for consent and I’m tired
of blind eyes & kindness. Tired of carefully extracting their claws
from my hair. So tired I’ve begun growing a set of my own. Call me maiden,
call me mother – quick now as I close in on crone – call me woman. Bred
to hunger. And condemned for letting it show. Caged
with my sisters. Fed on scraps and starved

of sympathy. Keys within reach,
too well broken to dare. Pavlov’s dogs after
the flood, always coming home
to the comfort of a danger
well known.  when Milton imagined the fallen
in your image,  perched high in The Tree of Life, when he, now snake,
turned and spoke sin into mine,
we were neither of us willing. And yet,

I too have espied their garden, jealous, ravenous – tethered
by language, you and I both – & grade school petty. Cormorous
and hell bent on ruining it for the whole class. One denial
too many and you may find we have harnessed our fury,
have turned like the tide.

It takes a cormorant colony three to ten years to decimate
a landscape. I’ve done it in less. I once broke
a man between March and December, before my wisdom
teeth had yet cut. I have done unspeakable things
in the name of hunger. Others and my own. Mostly my own.
I am hungry now.

I see you, my portents, see the way they twist blame
from their actions, sculpt your fate to fall
in place of their own. I too have been convenient, watched helpless
while the mess of me poisoned a home, salted the earth
and dug deeper, left in it to grow; have nestled futures in tinder
with no faith in the rain. I stand in your waste-
scape and see nothing but glory, yet I withered
in mine and misplaced the L.

Look, now
how we’ve risen—my sister,
my sister, myself—we are come,

impressive, grotesque, ruined
and true. There is beauty
in vengeance, triumph
in anger. Reborn of their leavings.
a whole world that awaits
us, and so much to be done.

Katharine Blair is a queer, gender ambivalent Canadian poet currently living in California. Her work investigates human relationships, mental health, and the intersection of childhood trauma and body identity. She tweets @katharine_blair and fumbles the rest on Instagram @kat_harineblair.

photo by Insung Yoon (via unsplash)