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from Hermione by Katy Gunn


Hermione, left behind by her mother and father, the spoils and wager of war, played with her dolls the spoils and wager of war, and epic poetry.

     

Hermione has been stolen, said Hermione, and which of you will hold my hand and walk beside me into war, and hold open the door of war or allow me to hold the door of war open for her, and wrap her hands around my wrists and also offer her wrists to my grasping hands, and who will thus form a chair of forearms with me on which our spoils Hermione may sit and ride between us, winning?

     
The speech of Hermione spun the fluffing in her soft crowd. First rose the plump arm of Hermione. Hermione of the flaxen hair and battle-weary Hermione of the dog wounds stood beside her. Glass-eyed Hermione gave her word, Hermione, and then Hermione once fed on honey, Hermione stained with blood, and the two Hermiones of the woolen hair, valiant daughters of the war-crier Hermione. Hermione of the netted face fell next onto the growing pile of warriors, before Hermione split at the neck and young Hermione with bones ready for exploit.
     
Hermione arranged her dolls into lines, but they had rounded feet and would not stand.
     
They marched into war as a pile that strained her fingers at the webs.
     
Hermione pinched her needle to the arm of Hermione once fed on honey to run it through Hermione of the nice clay head, but the tip was round with cutting symbols into rocks and it would not stab, and it would not stab. Hermione of the sticky lips traded needle for spindle and brought it down hard.
     
Shards of the nice clay head of Hermione rained on Troy like painted beads from a broken string / painted beads fell from the string around Hermione’s white neck, caught by the spear of Hermione split at the neck / a shard entered the gape of her throat and sliced off her tongue at the base / a shard lodged in her fluff, a barbed little tongue. It scored the backs of her sticking lips.
     
The score was winning / losing.
     
Hermione named all her dolls for herself though she meant two as her mother and father, the wages and wager of war. Her dolls took the name Hermione when they stopped giving her comfort / dolls.
     
 

*

     

Sing to me, Hermione, without whom I know nothing, not the count of the ships or the warriors who fling forth their arms from the bows, not their names—

     

Hermione sings—

     
First sailed the fleet of Hermione, thirty black ships all steered by Hermione, cutting shadows into the floor of the wine-dark sea— Then Hermione leading the armies of craggy Hermione, twenty flotillas of twenty long black ships each— As new mountains thrust from the depths of the sea, untrimmed by the lightning thrown down from Hermione, came twenty-five black ships forged in wet Hermione and Hermione deep with gorges, masts piercing the clouds that sail over every Hermione— Then eighty ships carrying war-crying fighters from the city of Hermione wrapped in vines, gold-breasted warriors from high-walled Hermione and Hermione that enfolds the deep gulf—
     

Hermione sings—

     
From the white bluffs of Hermione, ninety black ships stitching the sea back to sea behind them—
     
Tell me now, Hermione, without whom no poet could sing the extent of the forces, not if she had one hundred tongues in one hundred, in ten thousand mouths—
     

For hours Hermione sings

     
stages of vibrato with her name scattered across them like vessels for her name on the wine-dark sea, while she drops black pebbles jimmied from the walls of her room into a stolen bowl of wine. Hermione sings a rising. Sea lashes out in red libation with every ship that sinks. Sea falls to her feet.
     
 

*

     
Skeptical readers / rewriters of Greek histories / mythologies / Hermione have established many corrections, such as: her mother never went to Troy / she who went to Troy was an eidolon.
     
Hermione kissed her on the cheek.
     
Hermione did / did not kiss her on the cheek, according to / deviating from custom.
     
Other texts remain staunch about her mother crying at Troy / weaving her crewel into war there. Weaving is the gerund for the verb other texts. Other texts is the verb form of mother / phantasm.
     
Hermione did say my mother’s face is not familiar, according to texts written as if in her voice.
     
If her mother was an eidolon crying at Troy, Hermione was a retiree in a stationary pool in Florida while the afghans she piled into the shape of her body pulled straw from her dolls in Mycenae.
     
Hermione’s mother taught her the breaststroke / crawl stroke during the lesson on leaving the places texts might deposit her. Readers may question whether ρμιόνη, a seemingly extraneous word in one version of this story, can be understood to indicate that Hermione also learned to backstroke / eidolon / can be understood.
     
None of this is synonymous with echo, unless echo can mean yes, that too is my body, staunch, wrapped in these granny squares some mother / I crocheted.
     
In which case the apparition kissed Hermione on the cheek, deviating from text / green and wet.
     

*

     
The ship that carried off her mother was fast and black. It was like / was every ship in mythology / history. Hermione, seven, recognized it. She pulled her hair taut and a play-blade across it for spite of mythology / history. Hair scribbled over her feet, read / black as an act of mourning.
     
Her shearing was a conquest on the riverbank where she drew a red cloth stitched with symbols / no symbols across her scalp and popped it out at her feet like a barber. Hair webbed the surface of the water. With her cloth / spear she swept the locks at her feet into the river, where they braided and dammed. River swelled behind the carnage. /
     
During the war Hermione sat indoors and practiced textile badly. She wove her hair into a gappy doll shield / menstrual shield / regimental vexillium and set the bloody thing on fire. /
     
Hermione renounced the practice of textile for the length of the war. A hair is doubled in sharpness by halving. She divided the dividend and then all the quotients. Each strand too precise now to curl into any symbol / any symbol but a slash. Hermione kept an infinity of arrows at her vast hip, releasing handfuls into this or that little battle / flotilla of bait fish / critical eye over the years. /
     
River swelled behind the carnage. Hermione launched into the roil, hacking at everything wet. /
     
Hermione saw one staunch spindle whorl of a turtle paddling in place with her neck in the net. Around the turtle Hermione swung widely. Her name was Hermione, Hermione learned after the war, when she took her spoils home to kiss and stroke.
     

Hermione only charged the river because she respected its unflagging currency. Freed from her knotted bodies of keratin, the river promised to repay her / redistribute her still-grasping  sprouts.

     
As many hairs as on her head, so many Hermiones, each with so many hairs on her head.
     
 

*

     
The goddess who came to tell Hermione’s mother that her husbands met for battle found her weaving both red men into a clash of cloth without ends. She pulled a rich strand of tear through the narrow eye of her. She let it soak into a white veil / a snowy veil / shining linen / shimmering linen she lifted over her head / face like a shroud / face.
     
The translators all assume blankness here, apparently unaware of the certainty of whitework.
     
Hermione did not seek to surpass her mother. When she found herself with husbands, the first of whom pulled her to him by her hair, the second of whom threatened to kill her, she settled into mornings of weaving her hair into rope / shining snake.
     
The gods were to grant Hermione’s mother no more children / no more offspring / no more promise of seed / issue no more after that / no more renew in issue like divine Hermione, the one little library book they allowed her to pull from the eye between her legs.
     
The translators all assume compliance here, as if unaware of the heterogeneity of women’s work.
     

Heterogeneity for her usages may take as root words hetero, other / genos, a type / genus, to beget / genius (in contemporary sense) / a type, as on no blank page / no blank page / genius, to beget / Hermione / many more.

     
Hermione’s mother’s / Hermione’s first / second husband led successful battle against her second / first husband and died only after a happy life with her / of snakebite.
     
Such a comparison of mother to daughter is one type of, though garbled, translation.
     
A comparison of daughter to war is a clearer type of, though dangerous, translation / of daughter to cloth without ends is the most obvious / most garbled translation.
     
The translators seek to eradicate garble / have sought—
     

But the death of Hermione cannot be found in any surviving text.

     
–––––––

Katy Gunn is an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama. Her first book, Textile School, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub in the fall of 2014. A free chapbook is available online at NAP.