A contemporary retelling of the story of Cassandra, Rhonda Douglas's Some Days I Think I Know Things explores what "truth" really means and asks what Homer's iconic young prophetess might have to say to anyone wise enough to pay heed to her in the twenty-first century. We find Cassandra walking among us once more and, just prior to the sacking of a Troy not unlike any modern city, she sheds light on the idyllic domestic life that she shares with her father Priam, mother Hecuba, and the rest of her doomed, if royal, family. No sooner has she relished in the timeless sexual awakening dreamt about by most girls, than she must stoically submit to the indignities of the invading Greeks. As a captive, she pronounces a series of prescient "Lost Prophesies" intended for our time. However much her Cassandra remains faithful to the figure of the ancients, Douglas destabilizes her heroine's primacy as "truth-teller" with a witty, varied chorus whose voices we can't fail to recognize from the quotidian of our present-day lives.
About the author
Rhonda Douglas is the author of Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems (Signature Editions, 2008) and the short fiction collection Welcome to the Circus (Freehand Books, 2015). She is a graduate of the UBC MFA in Creative Writing Program. You can find her online at shallicompare.com and on Twitter: @shallicompare. She splits her time between Ottawa and the Maple Leaf Lounge.
Excerpt: Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems (by (author) Rhonda Douglas)
Some years of knowing what a child knows: how to hide, what quiet means. Grow into your body, the unwanted truth of being a woman
and not some other thing. At eleven, begin by saying out loud words that are true, confirmed by shock in widening eyes, the quick hot censor
of what’s withheld. For your own protection, your mother says. Already there is no truth between you. Go walking, unaware the gods are envious
of beauty, and death — a natural order beyond their reach. If they play with you now, they can watch from a distance for what happens next.
Go to the temple. Be reminded in its silence of the sky and all that continues in the distance. See Apollo. Know immediately what he is looking
for here, what possession might feel like. Want, don’t want, want again: does it matter? Negotiate your own terms, then give in. Fall,
fall down into sweetness. Ask for a gift, concede. Change your mind. Find his anger irrelevant, now that you can see.
Don’t Forget Paris
My singing drove everyone nuts and Paris was a whiner. (Mom, she’s singing again, make her stop. She’s touching me. I am not.) Singing Blue Moon in the backseat, Crazy in the front.
We played toy cars in a dirt city. To get in, honk at the gates and shout the password. Once he cheated and snuck in when I wasn’t looking. Little shit! Cheaters never prosper, Paris.
Tell the truth now, Cassandra: they do, Mom said, it shouldn’t work that way but it does, usually. I stopped playing with him after that.
He was always just the baby. Once a baby always a baby in a family where Daddy rules and the boys are kings. Get away with murder or near it. But you couldn’t blame him, his eyes would drag you into complicity: Don’t tell, Cassandra, don’t tell.
History’s lost to us. We’re tempted to tart it up and give it a rosy glow from the embers only. This much I know:
I loved Paris in the springtime. I loved Paris in the fall.