Jessie Lynn McMains

Leda’s Swan Song

they all use ‘seduction’ as a code word for rape, the old versions
of my story make me complicit as though in my secret recesses
i desired the kiss of a cob’s beak but couldn’t admit it in mixed
company or maybe they meant it was more like coercion, as
though zeus was a drunk frat boy cajoling hey baby, you’re so
fine, baby, c’mon you know you wanna screw a greek god, hey
honey i’ll wear a trojan, i promise, what if i put on my finest
feathers does that turn you on?
and i, sultry and a bit bored
of fending him off gave in to his honking advances. later,
i hatched his babies alongside my husband’s brood and
shrugged, oh well, one pair of brats is not much different than

in the feminist retellings he took me violently. accosted me
as i sat on the riverbank, lazily trailing my pretty fingers in
the water. pushed me into the muck then pinned me down
with his enormous white wings, pecked me half to death, pecked
so hard i was covered by bruises, speckled as an oystercatcher’s
egg, and had his way. i never recovered, they say i was so deranged
by grief i couldn’t even care for my hatchlings, they say i wandered
that riverbank until the hem of my dress was ragged, permanently
mudstained, that i beat my breasts with featherless arms, squawking
demented torch songs about what that birdthief snatched from

but they’ve never let me tell my version because it’s too disturbing
to think it was true want not acquiescence or attack, too odd
to think i stood at the water’s edge wearing nothing but my desire
and zeus came singing how he’d do anything i asked him to, and
i was so tired of men and gods who looked like them, i want another
kind of love
i said will you wear a swan’s mask for me? yes,
i watched his limbs feather, his nose turn beakbright orange limned
with black, his neck stretch into a beautiful white question mark
he flew into my arms and in the reeds we rooted and rolled oh
the trumpet that blew from my throat as i came and the babes
i wanted them too most of all i wanted a girl celestial and
disastrous as i am the kind of beauty that turns gods to birds
that men start wars for my daughter what i did not bargain for is
beauty like ours means our stories belong to everyone
except us.

Jessie Lynn McMains is a poet, writer, zine-maker, and small press owner. Her words have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Memoir Mixtapes, Dirty Paws Poetry Review, Left of the Lake Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, and others. She collects souvenir pennies and stick & poke tattoos, and is perpetually nostalgic, melancholy, and restless. You can find her website at, or find her on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram @rustbeltjessie