Gorgoneion: A Chorus

We have been silent, masking ourselves, masking our voices, withdrawing so small that we might disappear altogether. For so many days and so many nights, we lose ourselves in old wives’ tales—conte de fée about wolves and vanishing girls, or myths about the violations of temples and their stony-eyed consequences—all while imagining ten years down the line, twenty, when we might have a home far from here and children who know no wolves and an A-line dress that lets us sit with our own loveliness undisturbed and silly mundane errands to run that remove us so far from this present. We avoid the rooms where we have been hurt, the homes where we have been hurt, the cities where we have been hurt, and still we are made queasy by patterns that remind us of those walls that trapped us (or: by a particular style of throat-clearing) (or: by the creaks of an uneven table). The little reminders of hurts are carved in the curves of our brains but also in the raw and bloody insides of our guts. Imagine being a child, a teenager, a young woman with focus and ambition. Imagine the men whose hands measure our willingness as though it matters, and imagine the process of flesh and meat transmuting into flesh and meat, an alchemy meant to hollow out the thing we call a soul, a reduction to the kind of creature that can be butchered and discarded and so many of us do not have to imagine with you—we know.

Some of us get out, some of us break free, some of us try to let the past stay buried deep inside because finally it is silent, others shout it to the world and to anyone who will listen because we are no longer silent; some make official documents, some are content just to escape because sometimes bartering for freedom with our silence is enough. Many of us dream, vividly, forever, and usually it is a scratching at half-healed wounds at first, the storm before the calm: being trapped, being silenced, being hurt all over again and then something changes… maybe we dream of a new life, one on the horizon, or one of the moment, one where we walk along rivers or count blades of grass, or maybe we dream of a hypothetical life, one where we are young again and cornered again by the perpetrator of our hurts, one where we are armed with a will to defend ourselves and are not afraid. And then the dreams are not so bad all the time, though many of us still see shadows, echoes of the hurts projecting themselves from our heads into the world, nightmares made manifest. We are paralyzed in sleep, or after sleep, some of us watching the shadow men at our threshold, menace in their lingering, in their unhurried and self-assured occupancy of the world. For some of us, these are shaped like horned devils or for others these are spider-like specters—but for many of us, for most of us, they are just men.

They are just men.

AUDREY T. CARROLL is the author of Queen of Pentacles (Choose the Sword Press, 2016) and editor of Musing the Margins: Essays on Craft (Human/Kind Press, 2020). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Prismatica Magazine, peculiar, Glass Poetry, Vagabond City, So to Speak, and others. She is a bisexual and disabled/chronically ill writer who serves as a Diversity & Inclusion Editor for the Journal of Creative Writing Studies. She can be found at and @AudreyTCarroll on Twitter.