The Body Myth – Pandora

Evil springs from the uterus, is a truth that gods and doctors can agree on. I see it in their faces each time one emerges from between my stirruped legs like the sun. 

The gods sent Pandora to earth burdened by a pithos, a storage jar that resembles a womb. And when she eventually pulled off the seal, sickness unfurled itself like smoke and wound around the world, ready to squeeze. No one knows why she opened the jar. No one put it in her chart. 

Each time I lie back on the exam table, like a fool or supplicant, I hope. Hear me. Take away this pain. Hope is pernicious, the one thing left in Pandora’s pithos when she slammed it shut. It drives me to the specialist, the pharmacy, my knees. It hurts me. I cannot give it up.

Hannah Landsberger

3 Questions for Hannah

What was your process for creating this work?

These pieces arrived to me as a pair and created the foundation of a chapbook-in-progress that uses myth to explore disability and chronic illness. Since my ribs dislocate frequently, I've often reflected on how dissatisfying the Adam and Eve story is, especially the sexist framing that Eve was born from Adam's rib. Prometheus emerged from my desire for a more hopeful creation myth/metaphor. And when my friend Erika, a former classics scholar and my best writing confidant, told me the story of Pandora and included the detail about the womb-shaped pithos, I knew I had to write about it.

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

These pieces live between poetry and prose because I wanted them to have both the storytelling quality of prose and the emotional punch of poetry.

What is the significance of this work to you?

The use of myth to explore disability feels significant in many different ways to me. Like the Greek myths, chronic pain is timeless and can blur the boundaries between past and present. There are so many wellness myths that fall away once you become disabled; the illusion that you were ever in control over the fate of your body immediately disappears. And while disabled characters are often left out of contemporary stories, the truth is we've always existed. Using myth as a metaphor for disability feels like a way to claim our place in the history of fiction.

Hannah Landsberger is a poet, theatre critic, and playwright from the Washington, DC area. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as Sick Magazine, Pangyrus Literary Magazine, Fatal Flaw Magazine, and The Hunger Journal. Her theatre reviews can be found on Broadwayworld.com.