Monthly Archives: August 2007

iphigenia at aulis

you know the story, don’t you? a great king offends a goddess, and murders a sacred deer. he speaks arrogantly of this goddess.

finally, a time came when a seer had to be called to the king, because for some reason, no storms had come to wash the ships to war in a place famous for storms and winds.

the seer said that the great king had to sacrifice his daughter.

but, there are as many versions of a myth as there are grandmothers in greece. in what most people know, the daughter was fooled into believing she was going to a wedding. then, she was thrown upon the altar and killed by her own father before she even really understood what was happening – even if she had been told.

but there are other versions of this myth, some of them with more historical and cultural credibility.

for instance, was there really not enough wind at aulis, or was this merely a construction of other kings that were angered at the power of agamemnon? thus, they declared that their ships could not sail without an unthinkable sacrifice. directors of stage and screen often enjoy this version, wherein all this talk of not enough wind is framed with lots and lots of wind, or else the wind arrives before the sacrifice and still the great king must sacrifice the daughter to maintain his power.

another version of this myth is that the great king filled the air with a heavy fog, to mask what he was about to do. he dressed a deer in wedding white. he dragged the deer to the altar, and sacrificed it. the daughter was smuggled away to a temple of that very goddess lest the goddess be angered for long at such trickery.

another version, the goddess, herself, chose to be merciful. she descended in a mysterious fog, and claimed the girl for her temple.

here is the version i like, that i shall call my own.

the kings of aulis schemed to hold back the power of agamemnon, because the world had never seen this kind of power before and the kings had grown so accustomed to their own power. they declared that the wind was not strong enough to set sail. agamemnon, a shrewd man, knew that these great kings were lying. but, to call them out on their lie would only destroy his power on the throne. he called the seer, calcas, and confessed to the sin of slaughtering a holy deer and speaking disrespectfully of a goddess. agamemnon was lying, of course.

the great king was confident the blind man – who did not know the intricacies of sailing – would announce that this was the cause of all the bad winds. the seer would speak of what could be done to change the winds.

no king could speak against a goddess’ will, after all.

calcas, a true believer, hated what the entrails told him. he announced it with a whisper. the kings that heard him shouted it to the top of the sails. iphigenia must be killed. agamemnon must sacrifice his beloved daughter, his beautiful jewel, on the altar. her flesh would be burned, and spread to the kings like a slaughtered deer’s venison.

the great king was not through with his machinations. he called his daughter to a wedding feast that would become her own death. he used the name of the arrogant warrior that was the great king’s greatest opponent among the gathered kings – achilles, the proud. when iphigenia arrived, agamemnon led her to the pyre.

achilles, angered that his name had been used for such trickery, tried to rally the kings against agamemnon. he was too young, too brash, to realize that this would not work and that this failure would be his true shame that day. the humiliation of achilles’ failure quieted them that believed achilles should have been the great king, as their greatest warrior.

agamemnon led his weeping daughter to the pyre. he threw her on top, to be burned.

a heavy smoke poured forth from the pyre, like something holy. but it was only a trick. inside the smoke, the blind seer, calcas, horrified at what he had had to declare, and without the aid of his empty eyes, undressed the girl on the pyre. he did not need to see to undress her. he did not need to see to pull the drugged fawn from his back. he threw the faun onto the funeral pyre. he wrapped it in the girl’s clothes.

he smuggled the girl away, down the back of the pyre, into the forests and hills.

the army, seeing the magical transformation, glorified agamemnon as their king.

iphigenia was transformed in the woods to a fawn of a different sort. calcas, the true believer, did not take the girl to her mother. he took her over hill and dale, over mountains, to a temple of the goddess. (this goddess’ temple was known for its prostitution…)

by the time calcas returned to the king to tell him the news, the army was gone to glorious troy. the fire of war stoked by the sacrifice had to be struck at once. the king had not remained long enough to discover if his daughter had made it all the way home.

calcas instead went to clytemnestra in her palace, and told her the news.

the queen, horrified to learn her daughter had been murdered by her own father, was crushed when she found out her daughter’s true fate, on her back among the rabble of an island far from home. she hushed calcas, and urged the man never to speak of these things again. let the girl be dead. better she be dead a martyr than alive as a holy whore.

calcas traveled on to troy, to witness the glory of greece with his empty eyes.

all of these things were told to men that came to the temple by a girl prettier than the others, and mostly cleaner. she told men this story if they stayed long enough.

the men told the story to other men, to sons and daughters.

once, someone came to the girl just to ask her this: would you rather have been killed on that pyre instead of working here for the goddess?

she said to the man – the princess naked on a dirty pallet, with an opium pipe in her palm – “i’d rather have died on that pyre.”

pity washed over the man. he strangled her. he set fire to her body. he bowed to the flame, and decided that she must have been a goddess.

Herodotus reported that in his day, Taurians still offered human sacrifices to a virgin goddess who they said was agamemnon’s daughter. most scholars of Herodotus’ age believed that iphigenia was actually Artemis, herself.

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crappy romance villanelle

i wrote it, but i will never publish this piece of bullhonky.

mayhap you’ll like it:

villanelle:

the end of things, it always comes too late
when lions yawn and fires smolder down
we could have used a faster great escape

when cars give out and engines creak and groan
when telephones fall quiet just like stones
the end of things, it always comes too late

when lipstick blurs and whispers lose their moans
we lingered in an autumn after birds flew on
we could have used a faster great escape

when all the roses drop into the loam
and then thorns drop, too, with stems and bones
the end of things, it always comes too late

when we were together, we were still alone
the ants have conquered pantries, while we were home
we could have used a faster great escape

the candles died, we sat in darkness long
too long, waiting for the other to come
the end of things, it always comes too late
we could have used a faster great escape

edit: after much research, i have deduced that this is, in fact, the worst “poem” i have ever written. bask in its treacly glory. BASK IN THE TREACLY GLORY!

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i feel like david hasselhof

if you notice, on this german amazon website, i have a sales rank.

http://www.amazon.de/Last-Dragon-J-M-McDermott/dp/0786948574

this means that people in germany who likely use german amazon more than english amazon are actually pre-ordering my book.

also, my sales rank in german amazon is vastly superior to my sales rank in america.

thus, i can say, like david hasselhof, “they love me in germany!”

over and out.

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robot prostitute speaks

I am a Robot Prostitute with a smile
Made entirely of the lost, brown teeth
Of other prostitutes. My breasts feel like
Real prostitute breasts. They’re silicone
And covered in ruined pleather from
the worn-down jackets of other prostitutes.

My engine runs entirely on nicorette gum
burned to a crisp that leaks from my redwax lips
to keep the authentic taste of streetwalker.

I am made to wiggle seductively
With the help of my recycled condoms
over recycled champagne
that I use for my human-like skin
that tastes exactly the way
prostitute skin should taste
after i smother it in smooth vaseline.
between my legs, i have a flashlight
at the end of a tunnel
that was made out of lost shoes
and smells like all the places
where lost shoes have been.

I keep my seventeen cats behind the garage
Where I go to make sandwiches
out of cigarettes and methadone and two fat
slices of pot brownies, sliced thin.

my head is made of one giant lightbulb
I have a blacklight in my pelvis.
they make interesting colors when I move around
they keep the right places nice and warm,
and they attract the right number of flies
men don’t come to me unless
i can attract lots of flies.

somebody told me to say I loved him.
this exceeds the parameters of my design
I was only supposed to fuel his vanity
and his self-disgust

In truth, I suspect love is like when my seventeen cats,
upon eating their sandwiches,
stagger away and away and away
and then, they fall down.

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life never stops for anyone

Life Never Stops for Anyone

can’t see the trees
for the paper
can’t see the paper for the black ink
can’t see the black ink

“and i know my clients
i’ve got this client i know
the da’s agreed to this
get his stuff in before the kid goes on a ski trip
and i know the da’s agreed to this
but bullshit
the driver says he couldn’t see
hey, i think i better go in and give blood
maybe about eight in the morning”

“do you want it on a plate?”
“no kidding,
that sugar goes straight through
it’s not like the processed sugar”

“she had this bed sore
they had to operate on it
she can’t swallow, so they make her
eat through her stomach
they were overfeeding her
she got so full she just threw it up
white-chocolate mocha, do you want some?
it was shocking
he was good looking”

this sound — this sound — this sound sound sound

“him and his girlfriend
he was more of a cousin than a brother
do you like it?
life never stops for anyone
my friend’s mom also died
no one really understands”

dances slumped in chairs

can’t see the cloud
in all this rain
can’t see the rain
in all this light
can’t see the light
in all this skin
can’t see the skin
in all this eye
can’t see the eye

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love story of beatrix fortuna

Her left arm was lost in the Moon War.
Along with her eyes, and her mouth,
And her guts don’t quite work right
Sometimes, she spits up screws
And wires and things from inside
Where her body is rejecting her new bits

On dates, at meetings, at social gatherings
People reach out and shake that new hand
Her eyes light up in pain
They flash and roll back into her head
And, if the hand-shaker is lucky,
The girl’s secret stash of money
– hidden in her strange, new chest cavity
– pops out.
Usually, only chewed up screws
Lost teeth, bits of yesterday’s dinner

They call her randomized response girl
They call her Lady Luck, in Vegas.
Or, her Christian name: Beatrix Fortuna,
fallen from the cockpit
After that giant robot battle

One time, a lucky robot shook her hand
Her metal heart fell out of her mouth.
“Give it back,” she said, to the robot.
Instead, the robot kept it. He had won it, after all.

Then, he opened his chest cavity.
He pulled his diamond heart out.
He placed it in her palm,

Burning, beating,
oozing boiling mercury
down her metal palm.

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aspirin love

barefoot, three coats, and smelled like sand
dude said the end is near, man, so, man, get ready, man
men in white and blue jabbed with syringes, three
dude preached the miracles from his gurney

she told me she’d do anythin’
if I was strong enough to love through ruin
she shot her daddy down and fled to Mexico
federalis burned her motel, nowhere else to go-go

heard they can take a cell of the martyrs
heal every sickness, ease all that’s harder
put one of those inside of all of us
we’ll charge the sky in electric chariots
lightning rods and tidal power

pasteurize the pity
with aspirin love
until everything is green
and everything is green

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somebody asked me today, what i am reading at the moment

i tend to read more than one book at once. i have a pretty good memory for where i am in what book, and have no trouble drifting between them like channel-surfing.

right now, and depending on where i am sitting in my apartment, i am reading these books:

On my dining room table, there are two books, depending on my mood and which side of the table I happen to be sitting on:

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0312890176&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0679450882&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

in my living room, depending on where i sit down, i could pick up where i left off in any of these books:

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0312855737&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1400034256&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0156226006&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B00005N7VP&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

in the office area, wherein cats have staked strong claim, and i am lucky to find a place to sit most days:

Gulf Coast Literary Magazine, for some reason unavailable at Amazon.

also, this is a great work of literature that i read in that space, and don’t tell me it’s just an old video game. this is a novel-length work of staggering story-telling genius.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=B00002EPZ2&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

in my bedroom, near my bed, there are a dozen books half-read, half-opened. i shall share only three that i have been reading through lately.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0836213122&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0679783393&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0393315142&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

so, what am i reading these days? this. also, at work, i’ve kept a copy of the epic classic, “The Song of Roland” that was translated in the sixties, and i bought for 88 cents at a used book store.

does this answer your question, or merely confuse you as much as it seems to confuse everyone when they ask me what i’m reading these days and i walk them around my apartment?

i think i’m going to go read something right now…

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out of coffee

alas, i have run out of coffee.

this emergency scenario is exacerbated by the sad reality that i do not have the coffee necessary to be mentally prepared to go to the store and acquire coffee.

the last time i went to the store to get coffee in this scenario, i bought a bunch of tropical fruits, some ramen noodle soup, garlic bread, and doritos. none of these things, i needed. none of them were coffee.

before that, i went to the store, and spent all of my grocery money on candy. all of it. it was the first shiny thing i saw.

why, just now, i remembered that i had left garlic bread in my oven that i had bought the last time i had ran out of coffee. it’s been sitting in that oven for over a week. i opened up the oven, thinking – whatever happened to that garlic bread i bought last time i ran out of coffee – and there it was!

i’m seriously considering eating the garlic bread, if only because i am out of coffee.

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just heard from…

i just heard from the literary e-zine coyote wild.

they want to pick up my short story “last star” for publication. i now must sign contracts, tell them where to send money, etc.

this is the second-best way to start one’s day.*

i woke up. i made coffee. i started the laundry. i sat down to check my e-mail with my coffee in my hand. i filled out a big author faq for wizards of the coast’s publicity firm. then, i found out i sold a short story.

i feel like such an authorial author-type of an author right now.

feels good.

watch for my story “last star” at this magazine: http://coyotewildmag.com/

*(the best way to start one’s day involves checking the lottery numbers, realizing you’ve won, and still managing to celebrate without spilling your coffee.)

speaking of lotteries… this one’s getting stellar reviews. maybe we should go to the store today and see if we can’t find it, yeah?

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=httpjmmcdtrip-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0399154493&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

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