Menelaus The Old Goat

September 30, 2009

posted & written by Caroline Picard; all quotations taken from “A Tribute to Freud” by Hilda Dolittle; Image by Brian McNearney.


To and For

of Helen & Penelope

And of the women he put them in respect to himself; and he said the city was for them and he left them behind in his city behind walls and each time he returned from the ocean he examined their teeth, examining their mouths, and of the horse he called a beast, and of the dog he made himself master and the stars he colonized with mathematics defining boundaries and bounds.
For thousands upon thousands of years, Odysseus has wandered through the Grecian islands, forever lost and found and lost again. Confined to the Mediterranean Sea, it may as well have been infinite.

Meneleaus the old goat
Menelaus King of Sparta
Menelaus’ Theorem

Ptolemy used Menelaus’ theorem as the basis for his spherical trigonometry in the Almagest. He set the times and signs of the zodiac, or so says Pappus.
“This little-papa, Papalie, the grandfather.”
Thousands upon thousands of years later HD, formerly Hilda Dolittle, sat on a couch, she stared ahead with cramps in her abdomen. She unwove her fortune to Freud.
“Again, I feel, lying on this couch that sort of phosphorescence is evaporating from my forehead and I can almost breathe this anodyne, this ether.
“Joan and Dorothy are rivals. Subsitutes for my mother’s love. It does not matter who they are.
“In my dream, there is a neat ‘professional’ woman with Lawrence and there is a group of children. Is the ‘professional’ woman a sort of secretary? I acted for a short time as a secretary to my father.
“I envied these women who have written memoirs of D.H. Lawrence, feeling that they had found him some sort of guide or master.
“I was thinking about what you said, about its not being worthwhile to love an old man of seventy-seven.’ I had said no such thing and told him so.

“The Professor asked me to interpret the dream of the blackbirds.
“Freud said the man in the dream had given me womanhood, so he charmed the birds.”
Before she knew any man, Helen broke her hymen with a hairbrush; exploring interior architectures. As a woman, when the city gaped at her congiegal bedclothes, she was quite proud.
“We saw the chapel high on the slopes where it was reputed Zeus had been born, or nursed. The Professor said that we two met in our love of antiquity. He said his little statues and images helped stabilize the evanescent idea, or keep it from escaping altogether. I asked is he had a Cretan serpant-goddess. He said, ‘No.’ I said that I had known people in London who had had some connection with Crete at one time, and that I might move heaven and earth, and get him a serpent-goddess. He said, ‘I doubt if even you could do that.’”
The old goat sat slumped in a chair after dinner. After the war. His head nodded and snapped and nodded again. Until his wife the woman his wife the dangerous woman she wiped the corners of her mouth, rose and elegantly wheeled him away.
Before you could write the rape scene, you wrote about Penelope’s unweaving. You had to let yourself undo yourself
Surprisingly absent for being the cause, Helen makes only a few appearances in both the war and Odysseus’ consciousness. His conception of the war the same as its reality, for the way he recalls all things—memory traces a cool finger along the inside of his arm, the cleft of his back, arousing and pornographic—raising goose flesh, perplexity, dispair. Helen the signifier, the collective unconscious.

The City Opened And Took Me

She walked around the giant wooden horse. She walked around its periphery, in the moonlight, from within the city walls. Stooping a little, she pressed her nose to a fetlock and breathed deep the smell of knotted pine. She breathed deep and whether by smell or sense she sensed the men inside. The night air was cooler than the horse’s side for the side of the hollow horse was full of men who had to breathe and in breathing took up oxygen and in breathing released carbon and in releasing carbon raised the temperature inside the belly of the horse, thereby warming the wood. She chuckled at the thought of a centaur.

Helen put her hand on the side of the wooden horse. It was warm.

The sand on the ground was cool by the moon and it stole into her sandals, cooling her toes and she remembered the sounds of her old life, she remembered the sea. She remembered the dottering old goat in the yard. It always remarked on its face in the  scullery window.

The City Opened And Took Me

Helen has the most least freedom.
Gods aside, she fled the old man with a handsome boy. She stole away, adventuress, inside of a ship. She wore a mask. She wore a hat. She dressed as a boy on board the ship. She made jokes with Paris and in the night he fucked her like a boy it was fun

The men came after her because they needed an excuse to do something.

Helen was not duplicitous so much as she was a child.
It was the very thing they: Menelaus, Nestor, Ajax, Paris, Odysseus, Agammemnon, Hektor, Aias etc., loved about her.
Her beauty was her character her flashing eyes her ecstatic mouth her life her life her life participating in every curve angle cleft of her body mind mood
At home Penelope struggled to maintain a position in the world. From within a city, from within a house, from within a family. She assumed her role, abandoned, threatened. By way of defense she inserted herself in a fairy tale.
She wove a shroud for Laertes—undoing it and undoing time and undoing her work; whether to bide her time before Odysseus came home or
“There was that same theme, that same absolute and exact minute when everything changed on a small passenger boat (as I remember) on the way to Greece. At an exact moment, by clock time, on an exact map, on the way to the Pillars of Hercules, on a boat that was bound for the port of Athens, there was a ‘crossing the line.’ I, the narrator of this story, did not know I had crossed the line.”
Helen walked around the Trojan Horse in the moonlight; the guards watched her. She laughed out loud. She clapped her hands. She talked to herself. Incantations.
The men inside had not heard a woman’s voice in years years years in ten years—Helen called them by name, imagining what their wives would say, the women banished banned from the horse, these pages, this war, Helen pretended to say what they would say. A marvelous game.
Listening to the vulnerable crouching men inside in the darkness in a womb they fashioned all themselves.


Menelaus : At that moment you came up to us; some god who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and you had Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our hiding place and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name, and mimicked all our wives -Diomedes, Odysseus, and I from our seats inside heard what a noise you made. Diomedes and I could not make up our minds whether to spring out then and there, or to answer you from inside, but Ulysses held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all except Anticles, who was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped his two brawny hands over his mouth, and kept them there. It was this that saved us all, for he muzzled Anticles till Minerva took you away again.

She drugged the man she drugged the goat.
Repossessed she returned a quiet woman
Sleeping potions.

In Penelope’s wandering tapestry, she sp n a room fu l of flax, the f ax of h r hair into the tap st y, she spun s cr t pa sage , t oughts, she s un t e wo an raped by a sw n  he spun the co rse of her v sions she sp n a g lden ap le, her s cr t contempl tive life, plac d prec rio sly between fidelity and misg vi g, sense a d n nsense sh s un th cl th for La rtes to keep him f   v r you g, h r protect r a d tter ng o d goa she spun a d her f ngers kn t the c ords fi rcely and s e sp n and in th n ght th re was  nly  he s und  f t e l om as in the n ght of HD’s  house t ere  as o ly  he so nd of a c ock as in the n ght H l n c lled  ut t  m n, b rr wing t e voic s of fo got en w v s, as t e sirens ca led out a   he c ty c lled  ut as t e z di c call d o t as p rallel lines called out to one another and met at last at l   t at l st a  d f r ver th  hy t r c  l  wand  i g w mb  om , t e worl und ne w th the s n in th c nt r n t man n t man  ot  man w   b t e w rld r und a l st at la