Poetry & Prose : SUICIDE QUEENS

By Lindsey Hall


Iocaste sighs in her last breaths of life as she’s done through all time.
Chamber on high in the pale Grecian sky looks upon the demise
of the queen of all Thebes as she ties to a beam her fate, final crime
rope hanging slack ‘til tis called to its task of swinging Iocaste to sleep.
Slippered foot steps up slowly to kick in the air where there’s no
floor to be reached for to stomp out the beats as she flails in evitable dance.
But Iocaste waits, something makes her delay in the shadowy throes
Where nor death nor life goes. What causes her majesty pause, look askance?
Perfume of lemon trees scenting the air and the green rolling fields fill her gaze
and her mind all ablaze, she steps back with bright tears in her death-rattled stare.
And she shakes loose her necklace and power it wields.
Iocaste slips from her predestined tomb, royal deserter of regal doom.
In lieu of a noose exclamation point hanging’s left limply to try to explain
how she shed her shackles and slipped through the cracks in the role she was given to play.
When Sophocles saw what Iocaste has done the page he doth puddle with salty tear stain
while Oedipus wept - what a blow it must be to lose mother and bride in one day!
locaste flees through the fast-falling dusk leaving son-king and poet behind
to live out their curses and pluck out their eyes, for eternity duck behind destiny’s doors
but there is a world elsewhere beyond what she knows and she’ll no longer be blind.
Thus went the great queen of Thebes seeking life beyond Grecian shores.
Through olive green groves, trees like gnarled hands reach and the black bramble
bushes would tangle her hair, for the land itself knows she attempts to escape
and the words lose their meaning without Iocast’s shape, they grow scrambled
and fade into dust. They must stop her, must stop her, must stop her, must!
At long last Iocast reaches edge of her world and the words she once knew
she sees dear Sophocles’ ink running dry with a soft-fading sigh
of non plus ultra. At horizon’s edge she is granted a horrible view:
Inky black depths, the unknown, perhaps death, stretching down to abysmal Styx sky.
It’s her last chance to choose between nameless and noose and so Iocast
leaps from the margins, she sets herself loose stepping off from “The End.”
Falling she calls all the gods she once knew for the fear that this fall is her last
feeling, or perhaps she’s never to end, but ever and ever after to descend.
But Iocaste alights with not barely a sigh on a sand-pillowed ground.
Beach burning brightly in white-hot moonlight now reveals the retreat
of ships on the oily sea slinking away, just as thieves they escape without sound.
She watches ‘til Luna’s rays no longer reach and Poseidon is guiding their clandestine fleet.
Then Iocaste falls in fatigue on the beach. The queen sleeps, she sleeps,
‘til dawn, rosy-fingered, caresses her cheek and she wakes abruptly to pounding hoof-beats.
She’s circled by men on great steeds, silky coats and wild manes in the breeze leap,
Mares descended from those which Diomedes lost, they threaten to crush her bare feet.
At first she’s frightened by this foreign land and by words on her lips that no poet has planned,
yet she holds high her hand and bows low to the sand for she is still queen.
D’spite plans to sequester and attempts to arrest her, Iocast impresses them with her demands
And the murmuring men, their eyes flashing like knives debate how to handle the scene.
“This is quite unforeseen, and she claims she’s a queen!” “Let her live!” “I vote death!” 
‘Til the eldest of all steps away from the throng, with a bow he encloses her white hands into his own, 
they’re now weathered and brown, and frowning he says in his soft, withered breath,
“We welcome you Iocast, to Carthage you’ve come and Queen Dido reigns in our flourishing lands.”

“Dido,” she whispers and rolls off her tongue the sound of the land to which she has come from
the pages of Sophocles’ book. Old guard guides Iocast towards bustling city away from the
palm-dotted sands, past high carved walls and through great marble halls
Engraved with past glories wherever she looks.
Inside the palace they pause outside the doors to the queenly bed-chamber
“Within lies fair Dido, now mourning the flight which her lover Aeneas
made at midnight.”  Now Iocaste starts, she’s made to remember
those ships in the cloak of the shadowy night, escaping to wander the seas.
The guard taps the door lightly, no answer is heard. Still more strongly he pounds
 ‘til worry is rising, he fearfully calls, “Dido, grant entrance, Dido my queen!”
Seven men force the door to a pitiful sight! Her Highness of Carthage bowed low to the ground
eyes soaked with weeping are red-rimmed reflecting the flames of the fiery scene.
Funeral pyre throws sparks in the air, little red lidless eyes
winking they beckon with fiery lashes, Dido, they call you to die!
An instant and Thebes feels for Carthage’s pain, as aloud she cries
intent, she is bent to prevent needless death and to Dido’s fair side she flies.
The two queens embrace while the guards stand agape and bear witness to unforeseen sight:
‘gainst background of flames the two women gain shape and grow firmer, glimmering,
take on a vibrancy ne’er before seen in two paperback queens. They radiate light
as consigning their lives to the Lethean tides their deaths rise from them, shimmering.
And the words’ spell is broken, and their bond unspoken—
They join, they will flee. They will live. They will see.
These discordant notes startle Virgil from sleep and in nightcap and gown
He goes stumbling down stony-steep mountain pass and upon
finding Dante the poets confer, wizened white heads bowed down
with the question of what’s to be done when the players are fleeing your stage at a run?
Dawn’s light is crowning the paper-print sky whilst the queens draw nigh where the words water
-fall off the page. A small vessel they’re steering against Virgilian tides
‘til at last upon black gaping mouth of unknown they’re totter
-ing into the unwritten world where Fate-full ink never has dried.
Hand-in-hand Dido and Iocaste go cast off of the word’s edge
leaving immortal death and life immobile for worlds not yet seen.
Now and again their light, inky footsteps etch wanderings across my page
as they live, unwritten, unseen— no longer to be remembered as the suicide queens.


LINDSEY HALL graduated from the University of Virginia in May 2006 with a Bachelor's in Spanish and Comparative Literature. She spent the last year living in Paris with a French family, writing, taking French classes and attending open mic poetry nights. Currently living in London, where she will be attending LSE for an MA in Media and Communications. Presently writing a novel based on her incredible experiences in the past year.

Illustration by Ishmael Annobil

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