CW: mentions of sexual assault, violence
after Michael Bazzett
The thing everyone remembers
about him is that he
was considered a girl at birth
and for many years after that.
Until the Earth-shaker found him, ravished
raped him, granted his wish
to become impenetrable,
to become Caeneus
because he was a good lay
(at least that’s what Ovid says).
I wonder if in the moment
Caenis became no more
and before the end of the story
we know, if Caeneus
ever thought of the little girl he once was.
If girlhood called to him
in a way that womanhood inevitably didn’t.
If he thought about fingers
twisting strands into braids, of secrets shared
back-to-back cloaked in Nyx’s embrace.
I hope he didn’t think about the moment
he became aware
of the protector of horses’ hungry lips.
Ironic isn’t it
that it was a horse-man’s jealous lips
and tongue that threw barbs,
calling for the end of Caeneus’ life
the way the stories tell us:
buried under fir trees and stones—
the same amount needed to stop
Typhon, who had made the gods quake.
The stories end his song there:
Caeneus forever entombed or crushed
beneath the weight of hate and lust.
But in this version,
Caeneus plays possum.
As his breaths come rabbit-quick,
his fingers dripping scarlet
from clawing at rock, Tyche pays
back the fortune long overdue.
He twists his head just so,
finds a star among the solid sky,
drags himself out of his almost tomb,
and, smiling, he—
I’m sorry. I promised not to tell
where he found a home.
Mir L. Cone is a second-year MFA candidate in fiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Born and raised primarily in Florida, they also spent time living and learning in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Their latest writing explores queerness, estrangement, and inheritance.