We crawled out of our mother’s womb
and we were the same.
A pair of fragile little animals,
pink and wet, blind like kittens.
But we had royal blood.
But we were children.
My hair grew long, black, glowing.
A tangle of snakes poised to strike.
My brother’s hair grew, too. Thick
silky fur all over his body.
I envied him. He was always warm.
I slept curled in his soft arms
while the north wind screamed
and the sea bit into the shores.
I grew: a soft bosom, a beautiful face.
An army of suitors befitting the princess.
My brother grew: a pair of horns.
Sharp and curved. He was three
heads taller than any man.
I learnt to sing hymns to the gods
every full moon.
My brother forgot how to speak.
A prince doesn’t have horns.
A prince doesn’t howl in despair
for days and days, wordless.
We have seen twenty winters each.
I got new dresses and bracelets
of gold and silver and pearls.
My brother got a labyrinth.
The word travelled.
Our mother: the whore.
My brother: the monster.
He lived in his labyrinth.
He ate human flesh now.
There was no other word.
One of the builders had kind eyes.
He left us a little window in the wall.
A hole the size of a fist.
Every night, I held my brother’s hand.
Sometimes it was wet and salty.
Sometimes it was wet and red.
“I’ll get you out,” I told the silence.
And, “I love you.”
And, “Brother. Beloved.”
In the winter, I slept alone
and my limbs were cold.
I didn’t care he devoured human flesh.
He held my hand every night.
The story goes like this:
I fell in love with a great hero.
I gave him a ball of thread.
I helped him slay the monster
and he promised to take me away.
The hero was the one who told
the story, not me.
The great hero came to murder
my brother. I wanted to claw
his eyes out, but I made him
my messenger instead.
I gave him a sword, for my brother
was without a weapon save his horns.
I gave him a ball of thread, so my brother
could find his way back to me.
The story doesn’t say that I failed.
I have held my brother’s hand every night.
Misery slept in his arms in my stead.
The great hero emerged victorious:
with my thread and my sword
and my brother’s head.
The story says I sang with joy.
The story says I went with the hero
who saved us all from the monster.
The story doesn’t say that I cried
until my heart became stone.
I cursed the hero with divine breath.
I laid down in the dust and kissed
my brother’s eyes, still wet and salty.
The finest Athenians stood around me
flushed with victory.
The hero left with no prize, save for
eternal glory and my tears.
He left without looking back.
The hero stood on the deck of his ship
and looked upon his proud city on the
horizon. He could not raise a white sail.
I had wrapped my brother’s head in it.
The stolen cloth was no longer white.
It left red kisses on my blankets.
I slept curled around it
and my limbs remained cold.
I wasn’t surprised when the hair
started growing thick and black
on my arms, my legs, my bosom.
I was next in line.
I took the sword, the thread, the head.
I walked into the labyrinth.
I waited for another
— Ariadne Twists Her Thread. Copyright Dali Regent, October 2014.