“In Hlesey the brides of the Berserkes slew I;
Most evil they were, and all they betrayed.
She-wolves they were like, and women but little;
My ship, which well I had trimmed, did they shake;
With clubs of iron they threatened, and Thjalfi they drove off.”
—Harbarthsljoth, trans. Henry Adams Bellows
Three thousand years ago
In a more ancient part of the world
In a wasteland of flyover states on the shores of a sunless sea,
A little boy might say, “Daddy, I wish I’d been born a girl.”
And his–her–father might throw his hands up and say, “Oh, thank the seven gods, because we sure do need the money.”
And off you’d go, left-right, left-right, learn to string a bow and swing an axe and drive a spear,
Because you’re a woman now, boy, and a woman has to know how to KILL
And we all know the story
About the three hundred big strong manly men who stood in the shield wall by the sea
And spat in the face of the King of Kings;
We all know that story.
But there’s another story, one that never gets told.
When the King of Kings was land-hungry and greedy for glory,
Why’d he march his million men west?
Why not north?
Well, he did, and he learned that you don’t march an army north from Ctesiphon.
Because they don’t make shield walls up there, they don’t march, they ride
On wild, shaggy horses, firing arrows as they come.
And they don’t stand to hold the passes, no they run away;
But they come back, firing volley after volley, and so you’ll die,
So full of arrows you look like a porcupine,
Far from home, on the shores of a sunless sea.
But who led that charge? Who rode in the vanguard?
Who marked the targets and called the shots and sounded the war-cries?
And when the dust cleared, who gathered up the survivors
And burned them alive on the sacred fires?
Who made sure that Aresh, the black-eyed god of death and war and pain,
Smelled the smoke and smiled?
And in the yurts back home, who sat in the holy circles
Drinking liquid goddamn heroin out of bowls
And smoking big fat jeffries
So that they could see the face of Aresh
And tell the king when to make war or where to sow grain?
Ladies, ladies, ladies dealt death from horseback on fields of blood,
And ladies burned the offerings and spoke to the gods,
And ever so many of those ladies had big, fat cocks.
They called us Enaree, cursed by Aphrodite,
Beloved by Aresh,
Warriors and prophets,
And a boy might say, “I’m not a boy at all,
“I’m a girl. I’m a girl so much that I’ll chop my own balls off and I’ll drink horse piss so my body can have estrogen.”
And hearing this, the king might say,
“Alright then, sounds good, but can you ride? Can you shoot a bow and wield a spear?”
And he could. No, no, NO, SHE could, and she did, and even Alexander trembled.
And now, and now, three thousand years have passed,
And some people call themselves radicals
And call themselves feminists
But they’ll fear and hate and goddamn try to kill you
If they say you’re the wrong sort of woman,
And they do it all with Wonder Woman on their t-shirts,
Wonder Woman on their handbags,
and with fear and treason in their hearts.