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"Ariadne" by Jerome Ramcharitar

My mother spoke a dark language

in secret. Her syllables wove my first memories.

Just as my mother died, she whispered her last words

into a web. The ceremony required that I bind my wrist to hers

for a day, as the heat left her body.

We were one, and then she was gone.

Something about her remained with me;

something about her final breaths had shifted my face and fingers.

Men looked at me with distrust, as they spat and sank into suspicions.

Women looked at me with hate, for what I was, for what I was not.

I was alone for a long time.

Until, someone. The waves rippled around him

and the current changed then. This lovely man

who promised me everything and nothing.

He spoke with grace, words radiant every bit that my mother's were black.

I gave him a string not to find his way to the monster

but to find his way back.

I had seen too many brave men and women walk into the maze

and never out.

Walls are webs of a kind whether you are predator or prey;

they form a home or a sentence, language or law.

Maybe that is why brooding flattened my body

and I learned all the grammars of death.

I learned, too, how to speak through the darkness and promise life to my new love.

I learned, finally, to forget loneliness so I could lust after love.

But he left. String cut, the beast's head in hand,

he left. He refused to tell

how I had killed the monster

with the words I had borrowed from my mother,

words she had lent to the world only a short while,

a promise that she would take back the life she had given

her son, the monster, a mistake.

Once you learn to take a life, it is hard to know where to put it.

My mother knew, but never lived long enough to tell.

If you are listening, Theseus,

through the silence you've so carefully placed,

I want to tell you, thank you, for the end you've brought to our love.

I am hideous and beautiful and there was a time

I believed that either would make a man shun you or love you.

But if I am both then I am neither,

and cannot be loved truly, and cannot be held long.

My mother lives through me, these limbs and lines, the strings

I thread through words and mazes. It is an art she taught me

so none could fool me, that I would find an escape

no matter how cleverly hidden.

Even though I am held prisoner,

to my father and some divine drunk

he has promised me to marry.

Even though I am held in a room,

so that I may not betray another.

Even with the darkness of this place, this room and keep and prison,

that screams the thousand stories that it cannot tell,

the loves it swallowed and the innocence it stole.

I know all this, too, is a maze.

Jerome Ramcharitar is a writer based in Montreal, Quebec. Most of his days are spent teaching English as a second language and occasionally causing more trouble as a poet. A dabbler by nature, he has dipped his fingers into editing, translation, and the dangerous world of card games.

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