Cassandra, or Don’t Girls Love Horses

A nice mention in SF Classical Voice today about my Cassandra-inspired piece with Jessica Rudman, Cassandra, or Don’t Girls Love Horses, which will be premiered on 17 April! Here’s the full text of the piece, originally titled Girls Love Horses, with my author’s note:

 Author’s Note

Cassandra, princess of Troy, prophecies the arrival of and destruction contained within the Trojan Horse, given to Troy as a symbol of submission by Greeks as guided by Athena. Cassandra’s song begins wistfully as she remembers her youth with horses, but becomes increasingly agitated that the giant horse facing the gates of their city is the one she has seen in a prophetic vision, bringing with it “death and fate and death and fate” (from Homer, The Odyssey, scroll 4, line 21, trans. Samuel Butler, based on public domain edition, revised by Timothy Power and Gregory Nagy. A. C. Fifield, London. 1900). –KPL

I was a girl in Troy, and like so many girls,
I loved horses.

(in a reverie)

A pony from Thessaly was my darling,
and the one who had a star on her nose;
and the one I rode
the day before I was cursed
was gentle and swift on the plains.

When I was a girl
I rode on the horses
that the King my father owned.
They were meant for racing
and acrobatics in the hippodrome, but
I rode my horses away
from the men and their spears,
and their catalogues of ships.

I was a girl who loved horses.
And as a girl who knew no better,
I told my father never
to sacrifice
horses to Poseidon,
even though he is the horse god.

(in her present, more matter-of-fact)
I was a girl in Troy, and like so many girls,
I loved horses.
Now I am my city’s
most famous
mad
woman, and
I love horses–

But that beautiful mountainous
wooden
horse
I can see right now,
outside our gates–
Friends,
I do not love that horse.

I have warned you and warned you,
but you think my dreams
are those of a girl,
just a girl
who loves horses.

Please listen,
please hear:
I have seen horses
in my dreams
where I dream of smoke and fire

and that is the horse that I saw
in my sleep
when I dreamed
of the fall of Troy.

Didn’t I tell you? You called me mad
you said
what is wrong with you don’t
girls love horses?

This wooden horse
brings men who reek of heat and flesh
and the spears I have long avoided;
this horse is a ship for land and siege,
that races in funeral games.

This horse will not run with me
down to the bay in the fresh spring grass,
This horse will not run with me
around the track or out through the gate;

This horse is not a horse for escaping.

I saw this horse and its fir-tree flanks
and its body covered with skins; oh
I foresaw it,
I foretold it,
and you laughed–

and you said
you are mad don’t
girls love horses?

This horse, why a horse, oh
for Troy loves its horses, but my friends
this horse has no teeth but swords
and this horse will eat our hearts as we run.

Heed me now,
mark this danger.
Do not let us stable this horse, say
the stables are full, send it away;
it will kick and bite and throw us
under
its giant rolling hooves;

no foals rest within its womb
but a host of men all armed
and there in the heights is the priest felled
by the altar
where now the bull runs free,
the priest with serpents knotted at his arms
as he shouts–
as I have said–
do not trust the horse.

Trojans, if you love your horses now,
ride away from this one;
bring me my mare
sure-footed and blazed–

no, no–
give her to this girl by my side,
this girl, this girl who loves horses,
so that she can flee.
I will not escape:
I have dreamt that too,
in a wretched curl of sleep.

Let me tell you once more,
I beg you to believe me:

In the dark body
of the wooden horse,
in the belly of this mighty horse
we will find
the men I have seen:
Forty men there
and two in its eyes

bringing no gift

but death and fate

death and fate and death
and fate and
death:

Yet you keep asking
don’t girls love horses?

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