Caeneus, Revisited

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.

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