[ToC]

 

FROM MEGA-CITY REDUX

Alyse Knorr

 

 

All women who have loved and do love and will love virtue and morality, as well as all who have died or who are now living or who are to come, rejoice and exult in our new City which, thanks to God, is already formed and almost finished and populated.

The Book of the City of Ladies
by Christine de Pizan, 1405

 

*

 

We all imagine it differently: an armory packed ceiling-high with steel, stable full of black horses with black manes and black eyes, laboratory spilling sexy dry ice fumes, statues of women chiseled by women using marble quarried by women from a bottomless vein discovered by women, sex toy palace of pinks and purples, open air markets where the currency is only giving, street after street of library towers peaking like multiple orgasms, and a map where every last alley—every brick and cornerstone, is called Truth. 

 

*

 

Atom Hymn

A boy named Patrick, 5 like me. We are learning about patterns. The teacher hands us each a toothpick, a block, and a popsicle stick. With breathtaking creativity Patrick immediately makes a catapult of block and stick, launches toothpick to the other side of the classroom. It bounces quietly off the jigsaw carpet. No girl would ever. How jealous, I, at his ownership, even then, of the world: its objects, its rules, its brazen rulers.

 

*


Dana doesn’t doubt though she needs to find it most. Her maps blanket the dash, notes printed neatly in her careful crisp hand. Everything is too hot or too cold. Everything uncertain but her faith she’ll find certainty. I count down city names, license plates, and cows. Xena polishes her chakram and tells Buffy war stories. Dana’s eyes dart up with each distant glinting car.

 

*

 

Atom Hymn

Just before high school, I thought I might get a boyfriend when Kyle Christianson called. He’d found my name, age, and number in the Maple Creek Neighborhood Directory. We talked for half an hour about school, CDs, and Kyle’s brother. His voice on the phone was like slick yellow popcorn oil, like a buttery stain. He asked if he could bike to my house to watch TV. Minutes later he appeared in the driveway. Looked me up and down. He did not dismount. Muttered something about getting home for dinner. And still I feel ashamed.

 

*


If we were not in Bumblefuck, if it was not two in the morning, if cars could wave flags like ships once did indicating friend or foe, if there were any place on earth we could feel safe, we would not be concerned about the second flat tire.

Xena: At a certain point you start to consider divine misintervention.

Dana: [fingers the cross around her neck]

Rain blends with the locust sounds to a gentle shushing. We all think of our mothers but instead say, How much gin is left? and What hairdos will make us look both most and least threatening? We sleep in shifts, tell low stories til morning. 

 

*

 

Atom Hymn

A frat party. One of them asks me if I like it rough—asks right in front of the man who loves me. He says nothing. The next day I swim laps for hours, avoiding his calls. I wanted a violent rescue of my honor—something primitive, brutal, and swift. I hated that I wanted that. I hate that I did not do it myself. The chlorine burns me clean and my strong legs slap water like wet concrete.

 

*

 

Nine o’clock at The Carousel Roadside Bar is the perfect time for the wire-gray plaid man to stumble across the strobed dance floor to the jukebox nearest us. He slurs out high praise and gestures with sweaty bills. Leans over our drinks with his bird-dog view. Winks. Pleads. Chides. And when his hand touches my thigh under the table I am not angry about it. I am gazing. Objective and objecting. Soon I will notice the disco ball dots dancing around his winking severed head. Xena’s sword shining yellow, then red, then blue, then yellow.

 


 

 

 

 

 

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This sequence comes from a longer verse novel called Mega-City Redux that remixes Christine de Pizan’s 1405 proto-feminist text The Book of the City of Ladies. Pizan's allegory imagined a walled city where women could live safe from sexual violence and misogyny. In my modern-day road-trip version, I replace Pizan’s guides Reason, Rectitude, and Justice with my own contemporary feminist heroes— Xena Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dana Scully.