Phaedra in Hades

Phaedra in Hades – Maya Chhabra

grey-blooming flowers soft as air
and no more substantial footsteps
lighter than a girl’s no sun to see by
eyes adjusted to permanent twilight

above she practiced this speech,
curled around her stomach heartsick
a litany a justification no prayer
repeated till she stood upright

tied the noose and leapt nowhere
and this too is chosen this peace
lust’s arrow-wounds bandaged
nothing bleeds here nor weeps

walking a thousand years to her judge
quiet as the ferryman’s oar passing
through still oath-binding Styx
the road before her certain

she recites her cradle-song of woe
but it is all distant now a story
of battles far away helmets rusted
now all the fighting’s done

piercing as daylight her judge’s eyes
awake again aflame mouth opening
to vindicate her death her life
her father looks through her

and the noose chokes her voice

Maya Chhabra is a poet whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange HorizonsMezzo Cammin, and Through the Gate, among other venues. Her novella Toxic Bloom is forthcoming from Falstaff Books. Her translation from the Russian of Marina Tsvetaeva’s play Fortune appeared in Cardinal Points. She lives in New York. “Phaedra in Hades” was written to a prompt from writer A.J. Hammer.