"She will not raise her eyes nor lift her face from the ground . . .
to herself she weeps and murmurs of her beloved father."
Where is the milk and the water that led to this? I cannot see.
I am an animal, a goat with thirst, with no one to lead; I eat
my tears and live them for now.
Where is the sharp bone that came down the red spray filaments
between ocean and sky in Colchis,
where my brother lived and died for where you and I went
when we fled? Where are you, husband I sucked and fed, led
like a camel longing to be filled,
trailing down hot mountains to drink at my lake?
Husband I gilded us long ago and braided us with a thousand spells and made
the warm stones move in me
forever are my eyes on the dirt.
I miss the air, I breathe only boiling water, and you are there
with that other, that one who bought you with baubles,
bathed you with a clean name, my name is the earth.
Where are these sprouts of the loam, bones of my bones,
net-caught starfish limbs, falls of
I must be stronger. A mother. I coax the yeast from the cloth,
"Baking cookies and getting ready for Xmas!"
Andrea Yates, family letter, 1999
I stain the kitchen with yellow heat, I am here with my armor,
my oven mitts with purple flowers, my whisking spoons, my sons.
I am careful with the rolling pins, the cast-iron pans,
the casket of creamy paper that holds each cupcake,
with mixing bowls and covered baskets of scones,
with frosting and gleaming steel and holiday sprinkles, careful with the Jello
and the juice boxes' red sword straw. I mop up each spill with mountains
of paper towels and I wipe the things with lips; we must be vigilant.
I stay away from the mirror and the strange face that I see,
the first angel that poured the bowl and a foul sore came on the earth.
I keep my boys from unclean things, from the mark of the beast on me.
The angels sing backward flow the rivers, as if I could go back
"For deeds of glory are denied us, so we must do our worst."
and he would love me, and my brother's limbs unflung,
and the fair fleece would hang again in the holy place.
All I have are my potions, and the only love my dusk-skinned fawns
at play in the fields, and even they face only this, flying out
to no place, to abate that new bride's father's fear
for future kin, that familiar same-boned face. Not for these children
will he save them now, not for me, with a seething grit
where my blood was singing
I prayed for his salvation every day on the ocean. I once cast out spells
as he will cast all of us out, I augured him a nation
while he betrayed us by the bed of another woman,
I boiled a man and the bones rose up in the water like foaming birds
of my husband's desire, and with my own teeth I pulled
the nail of life from a man of bronze so he might bleed for our sake.
Shall I rouse the embers of my power and flow the water backwards
and slake my pain, and consume the two from whom it came
in a wedding pyre? Will I save my living lambs from the fiercer gods?
Since my father has gone I walk around with thoughts of water.
"Please let me do this."
Andrea Yates to husband, 1999
Zion's daughter, I will heal riverday and night, the sink pours
a wall to heal, this lovely flood. My babies
suffer from the bad that spits out of my skin like oil, unclean.
Noah slurps his cereal bowl. Luke spits up.
The shit in his diaper spells out a message to mother.
Genesis says the children are almost ready, unstable as water,
You went up on your father's bed and defiled it.
John's doe legs hang over the couch like two scythes.
John and Paul are fighting on the braided rug
God listens at the window and the lambs rage and the sink steams up
and I hear the voice and a glass breaks in my hand.
I fill the tub two inches from the top
but the voice says it isn't time I beg
the husband to help release my filth but he takes the knife.
I walk barefoot past the water tower with its pregnant top.
I think of it opening up and the spilling wine of its wrath
on me, red and unforgiving.
Tower of God please heal me please let me please bathe me set me free
make me a servant as woman is meant
let me do this thing let me do this let me
Hecate, Hecate, the water is not fruitful here.
"The gods and I, in my mad rage, contrive despair"
I made him my god; ungrateful, I replaced you,
the only One who could have saved me, saved them.
He burned crossroads into my body and I wrapped myself in them
as in silk, stitched. Now the finger trails ache and itch,
and in the mirror a face that is not mine.
He made me not Medea, priestess of You, but half him, and milked
in me the blood and the honey, the children,
the beautiful meat.
This is the moment of their perfection, and soon
their first fleece will fall away and they will see clearly
degradation, desertion, the sand running for miles, and the nasty
human thirst that says someone know me, make me another home,
mother me. Hecate deliver them. Water, stay. River, turn. Sea, grieve
and fall away. Ocean, stop; plume into a stony fist and rise to meet me.
"Patient may be struggling with the concept of Salvation."
Doctor's memo, June 24, 1999
God has given us Mary. There are five new moons now reflected
"Patient is discharged in stable condition."
Doctor's memo, June 24, 1999
in the window
by the sink. There are five souls
I bathe rock sing them closed
each night if they should die before I wake I
stand and look through the kitchen glass.
The dragon in there mouths zero hour, winks and waddles away.
I wonder about the thrones that will be theirs.
We look through butterfly books. Butterflies look like dragons. Luke's head
is shaped like a dome. Noah is slow. The dragon from his book devours.
There are five
filled with edible objects in the shape of many sins. The linoleum is not ready for this reckoning. I should get on the bus to the forest and let the angels take the children,
already irregular, wrong, poisoned with me This
I rock and rock in the chair and don't dare touch them.
Cartoons contain messages. Walt Disney says You.
You know what you have to do. In the forest of my hair is scratched a number.
Sore. The number is Satan's axe. I see the tile wet with water.
I close my eyes. My head is a crown.
The hour. The sticky growth of the knowing what's to be undone.
"Happiness, but in that other place."
Medea to children
I sigh in their sunripe yeast, their salty smell. Little fish, little loaves of wheat.
Later. Another after, there will be time to mourn and soul to burn.
Come here. It's only a minute, only a small sharp quickening of breath.
Come here, two unripe bones at rite.
Come here, let me take your smooth napes. Don't fear.
Each throat a red scream opened in a white mist, an end
and stopping doing, done. The fist around my heart belongs to them.
The fist is love.
The cameras. The creak of the chair. The dragon watching me.
"It is better to tie a millstone round your neck and drown than to stumble."
He beggeth. The installation of all God
in household clocks as they tick the fates. Fill the water. Fill it cold. Get the Mary.
Fill her face
down with God's love. Chase the four. Three go willingly God
is love they taste it and the sound of dying
and the sound of Noah running
a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
and the flood of your voices dries up in me
I lay you down on white sheets
I say the psalm I carry them as flood away and if they sleep, if they are like the grass after showers they groweth
Noah, 7. I dug that pit and filled it and he lay down in the wet dust and his compass was ready seven years and the earth would destroy him and he went in and was forgiven. Selah.
"State the names of your children."
Dr. Resnick to Andrea Yates, Harris County Jail
John, 5. There was Beth-zatha, and he said I have no one to put me in the pool, and I closed his eyes and put him into the pool and he was stirred up and he walked. Selah.
Paul, 3. And he was afraid, and in the pond the fear dropped off his lids like scales, and he received his vision as the water clouded and he was filled with light and was baptized. Selah.
Luke, 2. I offered my dove as a sacrifice. We fell in, he in my lap, and the river burst against him and fallen I wrapped him in bands of white so that he was saved. Selah.
And Mary, my Mary, abide with me six months, and pass. Selah.