Parallel Herstory: Una in Her Own Voice and Phoebe Retold
Thus they fured forth upon that dreadful quest…
They told me Power lies in Truth. My body creates the walls of the Church. My voice sings the chorus of every hymn and psalm ever written. I am Truth. I am Power.
It takes more than Truth to vanquish Lies, that much I know.
The knight insists on leading tho’ I know the path and its turns and the danger waiting at the end. I ride my white mare two steps behind. Keep my hands busy by gathering the flowers that snag onto my dress’s hem.
I know it’s not the time to protest. I preserve my voice.
When she was twenty years old, Phoebe skipped home and told her sisters I’m going to marry a professor. She spent one afternoon showing him her drawings—the attentive pencilwork she learned in school—and plucked her future in her hands. Pulled off flower petals as she reiterated, he loves me, he loves me, he loves me as she followed him to Edinburgh.
And while his lady pray’d with one good thrust he pierced that false tongue…
When the dragon appears, I flee. I know better than to stay in range of its scaled talons and needle teeth, how fragile Truth is when it is held in flesh.
So I abandon my flower petals and throw back my hood as I run far up the path. I must be alone.
The knight wields his blade. I release my voice. I fall to my knees. My body a constant altar, my mouth a vessel for messages sent directly to God’s ear.
My voice shatters the bank of clouds spiralling over our heads. I press my fingers together and gather prayers in my cupped palms. The words wash over me. In the distance silver blade strikes through the dragon’s mouth.
When Phoebe ran to Italy with a curator, I’m sure her behaviour was deemed inherent. Her red hair gifting her with headstrong independence. Was her flame doused by domesticity, from illustrating aquatic fossils? Did she go out in search of a spark for reignition, to follow a new trail to a new passion? The papers would later marvel at her mysterious knack for Early Renaissance style without ever seeing the Old Masters. Tongue-in-cheek dancing around the truth, around a scandal.
With true tongue I summoned his power, moved from my lips to his blade. So shouldn’t it be me who pierced that false tongue, my name appearing next to the knight’s as hero?
He kneels before me, his gesture of reverence to Truth, to Power. But I want it to be known. I pressed the knight’s name into his lips with my own.
And from above I hear the angel’s voices, but their song imitates my own. And the sun reflects off my hair, but I still hide my face, buried in George’s.
Power lies in Truth. My power rests on the tip of my tongue.
Alex B. Wasalinko
Alex B. Wasalinko got hooked on the ekphrastic bug and followed it to Glasgow, Scotland where she spent a year exploring feminist styles of the mode. She firmly believes ekphrasis can be the tool to dismantle the male gaze once and for all. In the past, Alex’s art and poetry have been published in Esprit: The University of Scranton Review of Art and Letters and in friends’ zines. She currently lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania with her best friends and constant companions--her dog, Hamlet, and Elder Cat, Sasha.
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