Maralyn Lois Polak
"Let not that devil, which undoes your sex,
That cursed curiosity, seduce you
To hunt for needless secrets; which neglected
Shall never hurt your quiet, but once known
Shall sit upon your heart!" –Rowe
1. Curiosity describes the desire to know something
concealed so strongly that it is experienced as a drive,
leading to the transgression of a prohibition.
Poor Pandora, she’s gone and made herself into a myth,
a fairy story, a cautionary tale, trapped and preserved
like an insect in amber, a frozen pose
in a scene from Keats’ Grecian Urn
but she yearns to break free of her bonds,
and that is her undoing.
To the ancients, she was
a living trick:
artifact and artifice,
delight and deception, a heat-seeking missile,
in her quest for fire,
another Trojan horse.
But there is, of course,
more to her than trompe l'oeil, how
Pandora was entranced
with an esthetics to curiosity.
Outside and Inside,
just as Bachelard writes, form a dialectics of division,
the dialectics of yes and no, which blinds us instantly,
upon opening, which decides everything.
Shroedinger's cat hadn't been invented yet,
but the Poet spans time and leaps into the void
of Quantum Physics,
the rebus of secrets.
Why else would Bachelard write that chests,
especially small caskets,
"over which we have more complete mastery,"
are object which may be opened;
and then of course, there is the Lover's chest,
a lovely, beating, palpitating thing,
the stuff of life itself. And the paradox
of the Hidden Lover, who opens Pandora's own Box--
Pandora's Feline (or, Pussy),
a quivering, pulsating, yowling cat-thing between her legs--
from afar, plus Pandora's own implicit bondage.
And so, the philosopher writes, however obliquely,
From the moment a box
is opened, the dialectics of Inside and Outside
no longer exist. To Pandora, this philosopher's prating
is a puzzle, not heady stuff at all,
but trash, litter. Until she understands,
first she must acknowledge her pride, her polarity, before she finds,
through a painful process,
her cat, her penitence. The logic of curiosity tells us
that an enclosed space always arouses
the spectator's desire
to see inside; every cat
2. Though the desire to see may be connected
to the desire to know, it may not lead to enlightenment.
And so, Pandora re-discovers Bluebeard's Castle:
how his latest wife, a young girl, is given free reign
of his vast palace, except for one room,
which her husband forbids her enter,
and its key begins to excite
her curiosity, until she ignores the luxury
that surrounds her, a spy in a house of spies,
disguised by her beauty,
she makes love for the secrets she gets,
promiscuously curious, and thinks of nothing else.
Until one day, when she assumes he is away,
she opens the door,
and finds what she finds:
all the bodies of all his former wives, still
bleeding magically from all their terrible wounds and tortures.
Instantly, Bluebeard sees the indelibly bloodstained key
she has betrayed him,
proclaims her punishment for curiosity,
for breaking his prohibition:
she must share the fate
of her predecessors, who had also been drawn irresistibly
to the little room,
the riddle of enigma, the drive to decipherment,
despoiling the topography of concealment and disguise,
at their bloody peril,
action and fearful consequences,
mystery and threat,
to penetrate the sacred space of secrets.
3. While curiosity is a compulsive desire to see and to know,
to unveil, to investigate what is secret
and reveal the contents of a concealed space,
fetishism, on the other hand, is the opposite.
What if Pandora's curiosity
about the contents of the box
was really a curiosity
about the mystery she herself personifies?
ANOTHER MYTHOLOGICAL INTERLUDE:
BEWARE!!! DANGER RIGHT AHEAD!!!
Remember the legend of Psyche and Eros?
Eros begins their relationship
by rescuing Psyche from a fate named death
and then whisking her off to his kingdom
where all her needs are met.
Eros, sometimes called Cupid, tells Psyche
Don't concern yourself, my darling, about where we will live
or how we will eat, he will take care of everything.
In return, Eros warns Psyche, just don’t dare
look at him at night
or ask him where he spends his days!
(Sounds like a cross between a Mafia wife and a mushroom--
keep’em in the dark and feed them horse-manure! )
Nevertheless, urged on by her sisters--
they convince Psyche that Eros is a monster--
Psyche defies his orders.
She cannot accept
that she may not question,
that she may not have a ‘real’ relationship with him,
that she is completely subject to his hidden domination.
Like Pandora and Bluebeard’s wife, Psyche
is also consumed by curiosity,
riddled by the desperate desire to KNOW!!!.
And so she lights her lamp, or her candle, to look at Eros
as he sleeps besides her at night.
Alas, she spills some oil, or hot wax on him
and he awakens, at the precise moment
Psyche has pricked herself with one of his arrows,
making her fall instantly in love with him.
When she recognizes Eros’ true divinity,
she tries to cling to him, but it is too late; he flees.
Again, like Pandora and Bluebeard’s wife, Psyche has disobeyed
orders. She, too, is punished. Her punishment
is the loss of her lover, temporary but painful,
a loss which leads to her own magical, difficult journey
and finally becoming a goddess herself.
Yes, Psyche and Eros eventually reunite,
and have a daughter named Pleasure,
but that is another story for another day.
And so, let us bid farewell to Pandora, the first Greek woman--
another Eve-- sent by the gods
to seduce and destroy Prometheus, who has stolen
fire from the gods.
Pandora, who instead gets distracted from her mission,
ends up sabotaging herself
giving into her curiosity,
and unleashing all those troubles
on an unsuspecting world:
The way Eve bit into the apple of knowledge,
and found fear of it forever
The way Bluebeard’s wives met a redundant dead-end
The way Psyche trashed a perfectly fine set-up.
Shall we thank them?
from the bonds
of a sexist mythology
a twisted consciousness
that has stalked women
from the first moment
Or is it that
Men make the myths
Women live them out
No, this is not just about women’s compulsion to uncover,
and the terrible cost to us, because of this drive.
Yes, it’s a powerful warning,
though some feminists want to remake it
into an inner quest
for women’s self-scrutiny.
Pandora knows this.
Then why, why is it, the more Pandora learns,
the more horrible it feels to her--
this so-called compulsion to know?
All that new knowledge brought Pandora no pleasure.
She has another boyfriend now.
But she doesn’t think he needs to see this.
It’s too private.
Besides, it’s.... Pandora,
still another mask!!!
Sometimes, Pandora speculates,
a litter-box is just that, a litter-box.
And so, trying to make things right,
Pandora sends her beloved this note:
“I'm the lowest form of life for neglecting to check the litter-box.
I was on my knees worshipping your shrine,
and thought it would just go away.
So I'm sitting in the dark, waiting
and hoping you don't sell me
into scientific experiments.
Please, just forget about it.
Yours, Dora Mae.”
MLP works in Philadelphia, blissfully cohabiting with her wild-at-heart interspecies consort, Hobeydoo, a rescued tabby who has inspired several strange and wonderful literary works in his own right when he's not hooked on Netflix.