BUT IS IT POETRY? // Cynisca (One-Horse Consolation Race)

“Sorry, we’re closing.”
…and she leaves the battlefield
on her gala-shield.

Jingling with armor,
she fumbles with a jammed lock
in the half-light hall.

In the cold bedroom
she kicks into the corner
a chlamys on which

two heraldic cats
with apathetical smiles
claw a lonely heart.

And then stands face up,
mixing her tears with water
and Bloody Caesar.

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TONY: So, I wonder…

TATI: Again?

TONY: Okay then. You start! Tell me what I’m wondering.

TATI: If this poem is about puppies and kittens.

TONY: How the hell did you know?

TATI: Oh my god! Are you serious?

TONY: Erm… yes?

TATI: I was fucking kidding!

TONY: Anyway, I want to ask you about Cynisca. Is she a personal hero of yours?

TATI: Cynisca was a pretty ambitious chick. And she was the first woman to win at the Olympics. She even bred horses on the side. But… nope. She’s not a personal hero. Should she be?

TONY: Not necessarily, I suppose. But, hey, you forgot the most important thing about her. Her name means ‘female puppy’ in Ancient Greek! And since everyone loves puppies, I naturally assumed that you’d see her as a bit of a role model. I mean, isn’t that why you wrote about her in a poem?

TATI: No, that isn’t why I wrote about her, Tony.

TONY: Oh. Okay.

TATI: Anyway, while she was the first woman to win at the Olympics, it was only in a manner of speaking. She didn’t actually participate, you see. She was merely the owner of the winning team. The chariot was ridden by men she’d hired.

TONY: Fair enough.

TATI: Doesn’t this interest you?

TONY: I still can’t believe you’re so unmoved by the puppy thing.

TATI: It’s a silly name.

TONY: It’s not silly!

TATI: Stop kidding around! I’m talking about serious things here.

TONY: Woof.

TATI: Anyway, I have read another version of Cynisca’s story where it was her brother who planned for her to win. He wanted to discredit the Olympics by directing her to join the competitions. By having a woman win, he hoped to show how unmanly and trivial this sporting event was.

TONY: So, what about the puppy thing? You mention cats on her cloak in your poem. Do you think Cynisca got along very well with felines, given the meaning of her name?

TATI: Tony, are you going to discuss the poem or continue to say bullshit?

TONY: It’s a legitimate question!

TATI: Fine then. Just for the sake of argument, why would someone who was named after a dog have worn a picture of cats on her cloak? No. Unless, of course, it was a dead cat with its tongue stuck out.

TONY: And two little crosses for eyes.

TATI: Exactly. Crosses for eyes. See? Even you understand. But, wait a moment. Did I write something about crosses in the poem?

TONY: No.

TATI: Then the cats were alive.

TONY: Oh, god. Don’t tell me this has something to do with Schrödinger’s cat!

TATI: No, this was before his time. Stop being silly!

TONY: Meow.

TATI: I can see there’s no point me telling you about a Russian expression we have that literally means: ‘Cats claw on a heart (soul).’ Look, just go and bring me a cappuccino. You would do a better job of that than conducting a serious poetry discussion.

TONY: But how is that remotely connected to what we’re talking about?! I thought this was about feminism, about someone who could be considered a symbol for the rise of women in ancient society. But did this newly found status make her any happier? Even with the cool puppy name thing?

TATI: Scat, you wretched cur!

TONY: Grrr. Hiss.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2020