Kate McNamara – Being Cassandra of Troy:
A History of the Future

Profile McNamara LEP&W ANZ May 2021

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Kate McNamara is a Canberra based poet, playwright and critical theorist. Her plays have been performed internationally. McNamara delivered the opening address to the Fourth International Conference of Women Playwrights in Galway (2001). She was awarded the H.C Coombs Fellowship at ANU (1991) and elected to the Emeritus Faculty. She won The Banjo Patterson Award for her short story Verity. Her published works include Leaves, The Rule of Zip (AGP) Praxis and The Void Zone (AGP). Her poetry, short fiction and critical theory has been published in a number of anthologies including There is No Mystery (ed. K Kituai, 1998), The Death Mook (ed. Dion Kagan, 2008) These Strange Outcrops(2020) and The Blue Nib(2020) She has also worked extensively as an editor and has only recently returned to her first great love, poetry. McNamara is currently working on The Burning Times.

Being Cassandra of Troy: A History of the Future

The Sybil with raving mouth utters solemn, unlovely, unadorned words…
across a thousand years. (Heraclitus)

It is here     where I stand.
There are no headless lions bestriding the House of Atreus now
the curse that never sleeps   can not   will not    Hecuba’s appalling
fertility destroyed us all   but for me    the voice of hissing snakes uncurled
beneath my tongue till I no longer gave them birth    that much I learned
at Clytemnestra’s ax     now there is a stillness in my hands
careful with the words    that once eclipsed me   a great ox sat on my tongue.

A royal daughter of Troy    woven into the prisons of my father’s rages
now     here    I am a matrix hiding words    as stars burn and fall    I am
she who walks casting no shadow    no mortal man  can endanger that.
Do any of you truly believe that I should be compelled to utter these indecencies?
It is here    where I stand    the cataclysm of your time      stay not your hands
your mouths          I   walked the purple way    edged in blood
the timeless curse of the House of Lions.

All your houses shall perish as you breathe.

Not even a planet could silence me now     I know how to name a star bound
to the cauls of moons    black    black    the holes in space      the tides in time
returning    restless   reckless   gravid with truth     birthing it   hearing your words
rotting in your mouths    warlords     power mongers    rapists     liars
as cunning as Odysseus   all your wooden horses are your Troy    Achilles the brute
Ajax the monster     Agamemnon    child killer     earth killer
your endless rapacity      written in the memory of a river of sacred water
poisoned with greed      histories of depravity

O Troy burning   ashes   cinders   bodies writhing in the light    the sea drowning.

Barbarian souls have no syntax   no symmetry     in the cosmos of time
my mind is burning     burning    as the earthquake of truth comes
shaking like a spider in a web       in the black lattice of time
It is here now where I stand    the catastrophe of your time       I am Cassandra
I cannot lie    only the initiate stuffs up her mouth with earth   goes bleating   creeping
to the sacrifice    I will never go there again    I was a hostage to love once      no more
I cannot unsay the barren curse    I will say the prophecy   what can you do to me now?
I   who lived     so little      so long ago             I tell you    it is here now
blood flooding    infernos burning    mindless desecration     earth convulsing
It is here   where I stand     the future of the past          I cannot breathe.

© Kate McNamara