No. 45: Alicia Rebecca Myers
Q. In your final line, “Dear Lord Dear Liege Dear Legs,” you use brilliant wordplay to liken legs to a ruler. Earlier they are a rosary as well, a holy object, both worthy of worship. What sparked this wonderful play on words?
When I’m writing, I don’t have a map of a poem or an end goal. I usually start with sound, a phrase that I can’t shake. I wrote “Legs” in March of 2013, around the time of my second miscarriage (I now have a beautiful son), and was preoccupied with the body as betrayer. Even though I’m not religious, I somehow connected this betrayal to Peter’s denial of Christ, which happens three times. I was also hearing an emphatic bird outside my house. It just wouldn’t shut up. The caesuras between Lord, Liege, and Legs approximated the bird’s call, or even the space between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Q. Fairy tales tend towards trends just like anything else; it was recently vampires and werewolves that took to the main stage, but Kate Bernheimer thinks mermaids are the next big hit in the zeitgeist. How do you think your piece fits into the influx of incoming mermaid tales?
I’m not really aware of an influx of mermaid tales, but I like to picture a tower of mermaid tails, like an elaborate game of Jenga. I have heard about a new live-action version of The Little Mermaid in the works. I agree that the zeitgeist is primed for more mermaid. Maybe it’s because historically, mermaids were half-women, associated with shipwreck and temptation, and now women are fighting against the reductive gaze, against the siren stereotype. Rewriting this narrative seems a vital way to reclaim the female body as a nexus of strength and positivity. In “Legs,” I tried to show that my mermaid had agency over her body and sexuality before her new legs. And I think she feels a profound regret for her decision to trade in her tail. This was a decision that silenced her. I don’t know—this seems all so relevant to Roe vs. Wade, to women’s rights. It’s impossible for me to imagine in our current moment a mermaid tale as unfeminist as Hans Christian Andersen’s. It would make too many waves, so to speak.
Q. Do you think your protagonist would still adore her legs if every step were agony, like Hans Christian Anderson’s little mermaid, or would her fascination dwindle in face of the pain?
I don’t really address physical pain in the poem so much as emotional distress. I would say my protagonist adores her legs only in that they represent a promise of something more, better, immortal. It reminds me of how my one-year-old is never content in any room that has a door, no matter how full of toys it is—he’s pushing limits, toddling off in the direction of a bright hallway. He has also just discovered his legs and takes about twenty spills a day. He gets right back up, or raises a foot and smiles in fascination. The connection between mobility and immortality—of renewal in newness—is there, even at 14 months.
Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Editorial Assistant Lucille Randazzo.
Alicia Rebecca Myers’ poem, “Legs” can be found in The Mauve Issue of Fairy Tale Review.
The ocean was popular and nearby removed
from her like an ablation her grandmother
warned that she would be removed from it her body
excised from water
what happened was different
an emptying out as if she’d contained it all
along that which she’d lived in like a rainbow
in a portrait of a saint
whose heart has been rent lifted
the patina of silent repetition
deafening first she touched toes to lips
an algae bloom of blood what was it about
legs that she’d wanted so badly something to do
with the soul she could feel his soul against her chest
as he almost drowned
the thin cloud of it her almost soul on the temple floor
straightening his legs like oars to scull her into eternity genitalia
were nothing new tender pressure-center
in her tail spot that shimmered in the phosphorescence of yellow fin
fusiliers a school of them darting
in and out of hushed coral
that only revealed its color when in proximity
to light she was light
with legs what did it mean to live
forever legs legs legs her knees were a rosary
she kissed morning noon and night but especially night
when God appeared a gelatinous eye
blinking a metronome demanding that she dance
awake she felt the water pouring out
asleep the same
between her legs the memory of basin nautilus
sharks as mammoth as sunken
vessels hydrothermal vents like chimneys
once the surface of the ocean turned
milky miles and miles of pale tundra she’d wished that she could walk on
more than walk kneel
she’d wished she could kneel before
such pure absolution examining the hole between her legs she wondered if this is where
the soul will enter
when it does she wound
her braid she thought a prayer
Dear Lord Dear Liege Dear Legs