16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence #day14
Translated by violence – that witnessing violence, or carrying it out, or being the victim of it changes you in a fundamental way. It sounds obvious written out like that, but there are lots of ways of knowing something without truly knowing it.
The many violences inflicted on women in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Echo and her stolen voice, Medusa with snakes in her hair, transformed by revengeful Athena because she was raped by Poseidon, the Theban women and Io’s maids transformed into seabirds, and Europa carried away by Jupiter in the shape of a bull and raped…and the one that twisted my heart, Daphne, transformed into a laurel tree to escape the attentions of Apollo, who then still touches her, even though she is a tree
Transformation of the self by another – maybe it is the most violent thing that can happen
It is not as easily undone
And afterwards, the knowledge that the self can be transformed, and what to do with that self, now it has changed, and whether it is a self at all, or something else, something not-self
This is one of the few poems in the book that directly address other women. When I say ‘us’ I mean women, women who have been translated by violence, women who have been transformed by it.
Don’t we all have a little Echo in us, our voices stolen,
only able to repeat what has already been said:
you made me do it he says and we call back do it, do it.
Wouldn’t any of us, if pushed, sit on the riverbank
and comb snakes from our hair, or think that in our grief
we could become a sea bird, our outstretched bodies
like a cross nailed to the wind? Who amongst us
hasn’t sat astride a man more bull than man
as he knelt in the dirt, for no good reason we can think of?
There was a time when I was translated by violence,
there were times I prayed to be turned into a flower
or a tree, something he wouldn’t recognise as me.