Alice Friman

Clytemnestra, Unleashed
November 24, 2018 Friman Alice

Clytemnestra, Unleashed

Lovingly, she poured the scented
water into his bath, helped him off
with his robe, planting little kisses
across his back, then shot the bolt home
and went at him with an axe. His left foot
she grabbed first, then sloshing forward
on her knees, crawled over the fallen
mountain of his body, hacking away.
When the job was done, she stood before
the palace doors, dripping righteous
in the red evidence of her vengeance.

Always the simmering question—
what to do with her life, the endless
waiting for what the oracle promised,
what the stars writ large. One thing
she knew: the jailhouse pacing
on the parapets would stop, the dry
winds from the east that brought no news
would stop. For now at last, the giddy
joy of action: breathing hard, the sticky
handle of the chopper she’ll not put down.

Curse by curse, rattle by rattle,
the press of bones piled up behind her,
scraping and jostling for attention.
Time to clean out this house.
Sacrifice for sacrifice, murder for murder.

Her lover hid in the closet. The deed,
he said, being woman’s work.

Who could blame her?
Even the Grand Coulee Dam—
holding back and filled to choking—
would crack, groan, and yawn open.
It’s anger that leaps and rages, foaming
through the rift, churning the carcass
of a life into a high red boil of blood.
Woman’s blood. Unclenched, unyielding,
and unbuttoned. You better believe it.

Alice Friman’s eighth collection of poems, On the Overnight Train, is a New & Selected due out from LSU Press in February. Her last books, also from LSU, are Blood Weather, The View from Saturn, and Vinculum which won the Georgia author of the year award in poetry. A recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and included in Best American Poetry, she’s won many prizes and has been been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Plume, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, Crazyhorse, Poetry East, Massachusetts Review, and many others. Her website is