A Wicked Apple


Susan Slaviero, one of our EIL poets (also featured in our scary poems sampler) has a chapbook called A Wicked Apple with Hyacinth Girl Press. It’s got this lovely, scary, quirky cover art collage by Renée Alberts that hints at the wild mix inside: fabulous, mythical, fairy tale women from various cultures, updated in subtle and overt ways.

The goddess on the cover has an egg in one hand, an apple (a wicked one?!) in the other, and, no, it doesn’t stop there, a drop of amber (or honey?) in one hand and an ornament (key chain?) of green leaves (feathers?) in the other, and a snake writhing through yet another pair of arms. Talk about multitasking!

The combined-being aspect recurs in the poems, notably “Melpomene, on Raising Daughters,” in which Melpomene, Muse of Singing, appears to be raising sirens or harpies: “Their breasts/ bud above downy bellies, violet / plumage, curseblood already // darkening their scaly legs.”

Slaviero favors the witch over the Disnified ingénue in her retellings of myth and folk tale. In “Rose Red, on Sibling Rivalry,” she asks, “Why does the black bear favor her?” (In the fairy tale, Rose Red and Snow White help out a bear, who turns into a prince and marries Snow White, the shy, domestic one.)

She’s all milk & apron-starch.
I’ll eat a fish alive,
still squirming
on the bloody hook.

She’s like a bear, this Rose Red persona, in eating the fish alive, fresh from the stream, but still human, needing a pole and a hook. Human, and leaning toward witch:

I brew a witch’s tonic
to mute her indigo eyes:
the heart of a doe, the beard
of an imp. A pinch of salt.
Go to sleep, pale sister.
I’m red
as a wicked apple,
as a whore’s shoe.

And if you are out gardening, this beautiful May day, think of “The Sea Witch, Gardening,” and what’s under the surface:

It should be easy, all diadem and oyster.
Every year I grow new tentacles for tending
my eelgarden, for rooting tongues

from pretty mouths.

Don’t give up your voices so easily, the poem warns, or any other body parts: “I whip their arms // into branches, their ears into broad, / green leaves.” The Sea Witch, like anyone else we may go to for help, has wishes of her own.

I scribble a notation in my sorceress’s book—
a method for planting the parts they leave behind—

hoping to harvest sea-apples, obedient daughters.

Slaviero is a bit of a sorceress herself, whipping up a froth of white-hot magic words over a sweet and savory stew of myth and fable, fairy tale and wake-up call.

The art you see here is by Chiarina Loggia, and you can find it in the newly-redesigned EIL Store.