I am Medusa.
Grief, the hundred screaming snakes of my hair.
I am contagious.
The death that came from me is contagious.
Don’t speak to me. Don’t look at me. The baby in your womb will turn to stone.
Don’t believe me.
I cannot turn anyone to stone.
It is all myth.
The monstrous daughter of brother-sister sea gods. Or perhaps once a beautiful maiden cursed by a jealous Athena. I have read that she was African, a symbol of the divine feminine, a dred-locked mother goddess defiled and turned ugly by a conquering patriarchy.
For days a line of Saul Williams’ slam poetry runs through my head:
a symbol of life and matriarchy
A symbol of life.
I gave my son life. The shadow of Death is so dark, so enormous, that I don’t remember this often enough. I gave our son life. I gave birth to him.
I am Medusa.
I am made ugly. Grief has stripped me of my skin, exposing tendon and muscle and blood. I remind you of your mortality.
That is the secret, how I turn you to stone.
First I steal the words from your throat.
I find her name on a blog. A network of blogs, really. A thread I can follow in this darkness of grief until I find another like me, and another, and another. A whole blind world of families with invisible children.
On this blog, they call themselves medusas. They say they are a glow in the woods, a cabin of refuge where they invite us in to take off the hat that hides our snakes. A place where we can look one another in the eye without flinching.
I put on this identity like a well-worn shirt. Familiar. Warm. A perfect fit.
During the day I cover my snakes with a hat. I keep in the keening, the wailing, the cries that echo inside my hollow shell. I lower my eyes so others can’t see the sorrow, the exhaustion, the red rims of my lids—not that anyone gets close enough to see. I understand it must be this way. I understand this ugliness is frightening. I am scared all the time.
You avert your eyes. Paralysis creeps through your eyelids, your lips curled in an awkward, sympathetic smile.
You try to hold up a mirror.
You change the subject.
You angle a foot away from me, about to take a step.
Medusa, your silence accuses. Denying me motherhood.
I am Medusa.
How dare you treat me like I am Medusa.
I exist in this limbo of contradictions. Claiming, rejecting. Straining towards the past, yearning for the future. Afraid to remember, afraid to forget. Numb yet drowning in a sea of jumbled emotions. Helpless, strong; darkness, light; yin and yang.
I gave birth to death. Surely that endows me with some mythical powers. Surely that elevates me to the status of some goddess.
I choose Medusa.
© Burning Eye