/k pedersen

The Clytemnestra Variations 

Clothe yourself in Richard Strauss and spite. When Orestes cannot swing the sword, do it yourself. Swallow your hatred in a dead language. When the naked Furies circle overhead, run, but not faster than your brother. Pylades will never love you, sharp and fierce; do not marry him. Bury your teeth in Aeschylus’ neck, but never name your hunger. The blade may bend, but you will not. 

Do not go to Tauris. Do not go. 

Yours is a terrible birth. Kill your mother on the way out. Do not apologize for coughing up ash. Stay inside when it rains. A lahar is one thing: a tsunami another. At your mother’s funeral, wear basalt cufflinks. Pour magma in your morning cereal. When your father cuts you into pieces, let Takemikazuchi taste his steel. Izanagi will say, I can never forgive you, and you must say, Then don’t. 

Do not go to Yomi. Do not go. 

Take violin lessons, but favor the cithara. When your uncle plants a laurel tree, bring him wet soil. You will be emperor soon enough. Buy plane tickets; in Antium, you will not smell the smoke. Build a shipwreck in a bottle and send it to your mother. Lace your puer delicatus with strangling perfume. Kill only two of your wives. Now you are an empty room with the lights off. Shut the windows. 

 Do not go to Ostia. Do not go.  

Three Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

—for Spencer 

You know nothing about God, but
the cathedral is very nice
and you have an entire afternoon. You speak 

very little of the language—whether it is
the spires, the curlicues of the windows,
the flat mahogany benches. A young boy 

walks past you in silence; he is wearing
sneakers. Talks avidly of basketball
in another dialect. A woman is taking photos  

of the nave, and someone says, Oh darling—
it’s Rococo! You desperately wish 
that you had paid more attention in class, 

once or twice. The angels are carved
directly in the walls, suffocated by brass.
Everything is a different kind of gold: 

the surface of a Spanish doubloon, the 
roots of your brother’s hair. 
There is a tall man, watching.  

He was carved years ago.
You put a hand on him and listen
to his echo in the larch.  

machina c

This poem has been awarded the Red Lobster for issue/8.

the sign of the omophagist
mutilate me beloved i will eat the scraps from your table like a dog i will have you raw eater raw filth onyx and charcoal i will crush sapphires and swallow them and my mouth will be flecked with gold yes darling yes you can have me skinned like a rabbit cancerous with lust we can drink black caviar together and i will not say i will not cry out beauty is a hand with the skin peeled back from the knuckles and your arteries taste copper-sweet  

individuals born under this sign:
have eaten cicadas on the wrong feast day
have improperly performed shechita me’umedet on a man
have polished their silver but it will never shine

the sign of the wasp
it was the summer i died that i remember you and your lustrous hair in the soft afternoon light and your hands were all on me and i was very very small and i had just grown up from a little maggot-body before you crushed me between two fingers and there i was my wings all diaphanous silk my antennae shimmering why did you abandon me my love i have made palaces of dirt for you and i would have laid our larvae in a hive of bees just for you only just 

individuals born under this sign:
have worn velvet jackets to the opera
have strangled a member of the monarchy
have fed a perfectly good chandelier to their dogs

the sign of the ravine
the usurper-prince was buried here and oh he was so handsome when his uncle cut off his hands and i have swallowed so many travelers with my grey maw granite teeth when i was young by centuries i courted the eastern river but she denied me and i was crowned once by the third sun and they could not put out my fires for weeks and weeks i am all fulgurite for you my love you can bathe in my stream and for eons i will breathe dust on your bones  

individuals born under this sign:
have shattered an expensive limestone statue
have wished for more wishes
have died twice by their own hand

the sign of the yarrow
i emerge white and fair but slice cerise by the first thunderstorm press me to your eye and your lover will come back to you and if you eat of me and my children i will make you beautiful again because i love you in all of my petals i sprout best in the bruising midnight air and if i could grow up your staircase and through your window into you i would yes my love wear me in your hat and fold my dead body into your diary i want you in the summer always 

individuals born under this sign: 
have filled their rival’s shoes with broken glass
have woven nettles and thorns in their shining hair
have spoken to the sea and heard its amorous reply

the sign of the ambergris
i was in the stomach of a whale and my body was thick with saltwater and they caught the whale and hung it on hooks and i was pulled out with the fat and you wore parts of me as your perfume each night behind your ears and on your neck but at night i thought of the whale screaming and his great wide eyes and the scrimshaw they made of him i loved you but your husband gave me to his mistress and only she knows how to writhe naked in the sea 

individuals born under this sign:
have possessed apple trees that bear oranges
have plucked the wings of a butterfly and felt absolutely nothing
have learned how to stay underwater for three minutes but no more

the sign of the bells
shaking in winter for you cold metal for you hanging in the church during your wedding to another i hummed perfectly and the organ whistled back but you were silent with despair the windows were lightning-glass and when you rang me i could have been made ceramic by your hand and the heartbeat in your fingers i was lonely until the pigeons nested in me and when you died i saw them circle then fall over your body they were not weeping but i was

individuals born under this sign:
have heard god in the devil’s music
have sung their vows in the wrong time signature
have promised with gold and reneged with iron

the sign of the hunter
i was a young deer in the forest when you called for me and then i was a young god my skull milk-white i hunted maidens in the evening down by the riverside where you washed your clothes and the forest bloomed with your singing and my bones were covered in soft velvet you summoned me by another name in those days and i answered sweet and gentle but you caught me between your legs and made venison of me like a spring fawn again again  

individuals born under this sign:
have never eaten the vile meal that is allegory
have always prayed to their gods by the wrong names
have cast a shadow that is a bit too long just once or twice


Kailee Pedersen is a recent graduate of Columbia University with a degree in Classics. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Atlas and Alice, Matador Review, New South, Midwest Review, and others. She was adopted from Nanning in 1996 and is currently writing a novel.