I was once told the witch-queen Circe cursed men with the visage of swine.
One-hundred and eight suitors arrive in Ithaca.
It is the lot of men to want. Buried in their hearts is a deep, unfathomable hunger. As Tantalus in the black lake, they remain eternally unsated. So here they have sailed their ships to devour my palace and the bounty held therein.
In the halls of royal Ithaca I watch them from up high, seated upon a towering throne.
Witness these porcine fools engorge their jowls upon my fruit, sopping mouths so wet with wine and lamb grease that their lips glow in the light of the hearth. They pillage the pantry’s womb. My son and I maintain the throne.
A decade passes.
Now glutted with revelry they clamber to me. Blind, groping hands stretch up until their skin becomes taut and veiny. With each breath they groan my name. But these men are small and unfit to touch my body.
The suitors pile upon each other in a fit of limbs. Together they unfold and grow like a cluster of muscled hydrangeas. Their arms and legs knot and tangle together and climb high upon the backs of one another until this pillar of sweaty flesh reaches my feet. Wagging pink tongues spill from open mouths and stretch like tentacles, desperate to lay their teeth into my skin.
On this pedestal the strongest summit and lay their claim to matrimony, pleading with their gifts.
Peisander. “Your Majesty, see my body, how I am carved from Olympic stone?”
Eurymachus. “Your Majesty, look how swiftly I can devour this goat to the bone.”
Antinous. “Your Majesty, my cock is thick like the root of a cypress tree. Watch how long I pleasure myself without spilling my seed.”
Left to the bloviation of such cattle, I watch the yawn of twilight come and go. From minutes to days to months to years. Slumbered by their words, I dream, cradled in the granite of the throne.
In sleep I see my husband return. Clever Odysseus, who has not spent the last decade adrift fucking Phaeacian princesses and sea hags. Odysseus, who was so cunning he let himself be hoodwinked into fighting a war over a cuckold.
He broils with impatient fluids, gazing upon the column of suitors from beneath cloaked eyes. The whole of his body hides behind a cape as not to stir the lechers from their roost. This allows him to reach for his bow mounted upon the wall and knit together its labyrinthine bowstring. Nocking arrow after arrow the King of Ithaca rains volleys of death upon my suitors, butchering them with his sheer virility. They wither and fall to the floor of the palace.
Triumphant, he sheds his cloak. However the body that is naked to the throne, it is not Odysseus who emerges from beneath.
No, like the sheer petal of the gardenia as it blooms, is Penelope. Penelope, I. Penelope, We. With the gracing thunder of Our strength, We arc the bow upwards and nock another arrow, chafing the goose’s feathers across Our breast. We take aim at We, aim at Us. Our mouth murmurs something secret, before We release the killing blow upon Ourselves.
In my arms is the bow. A glint of fervor spills into me and I cast it high above my head.
“A challenge! A challenge for my hand!”
In the court below, a beggar enters the palace walls unnoticed.
Jackie Alexander Chhieng lives and writes in the Treasure Valley, laboring at their desk under the eye of their red-tailed boa, Sylvia. Their work has appeared in Thin Air Magazine, Foglifter Journal, Ouroboro, and the Tishman Review.