2
min

To Bring Death

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CNM

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The first meeting went as such:
I banged on his ceiling,
my ground, with callused foot until
he noticed. My noise drew him away
from the endless judgement and twilight
of the Underworld he surveys.
Showed him the cycle—
bud, growth, harvest, rest
(rather than an end): those
who do not drink of the Lethe remain
bound always to their bones.

Let him take my hand so softly,
‘till I gripped his pale palm hard,
reminding him that the soil concedes, true,
but Gaia is not so fragile,
and has endured mankind’s plundering
long enough to grow angry.
I did not bother to glance back at
Sunlight, reaching his harsh rays
after me like grasping hands, desperate
to keep and control. When the gloom
closed over my head, I nearly laughed
for all the stars in Ouranos’ sky
had nothing on the diamonds he lit
to guide our way.

My youthful soul had grown tired
of the carefully controlled lands
and even more guarded nature of
Mater Demeter: lucky then, that he was as lonely.
I stayed a while, to keep him company,
lingering like the shades
in his grand halls, seeing mortals
for the first time without the shielding
presence of She who planted me.
Grew, as I did not under her care,
to love his honest enthusiasm,
his careful respect of needs and wants
for those both deathless and not.

Oh fools, who forget that goddesses
don’t truly need to eat:
who have never felt
the drip of bloodred
ink that tastes so bittersweet.
Better to rule the Underworld
than live on Mother’s chain:
to have a loving, devoted husband,
than be taken like a prize
in the fields my mother nurses
as carefully as she tried to cultivate me.
How silly of her to forget that even plants
have spirits of their own,
and so much less willful than mine.

Oh Mother, I am sorry, but the dark
suits me so much better
than your bright sparrow chatter
and men’s burning gazes.
Now even my name is too sacred
to say: “Despoina, mistress, Praxidike,
(vengeance and justice in one)
dread subterranean Queen of the dead”
they whisper now, respect where once
ownership lay in their eyes.
Their fear is heady on my tongue,
a heavier responsibility than
pomegranate seeds or fallow fields
and much more welcome
for this I choose.

Yes, flowers still spring
in my footsteps:
aconitum
asphodel
oleander
lady of the night
bloodflower
evening primrose
nightshade
(do not let it be said
that my husband is the one with style).
Those newly dead,
lucky or cursed to remember
themselves, pluck the blooms
sometimes, the way mortals
never dared for fear of
Mother’s anger. I prefer their audacity:
goats are to be more appreciated
than sheep
(though both burn so nicely on a hearth).

My husband, who led me
so gently downwards away
from blaring sunlight, dips his head
to heed my counsel,
(the only obsequience he ever makes)
sets the lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice,
torn apart too soon like he
and I are half the year,
free to try to be better
than what the Fates weave us to be.
So they fall and fail: no matter.
Their reunion will be longer than ours,
more eternal.

Hermes still has to drag me upwards:
Queen and dread lady of justice
among the dead I may be,
but eternally for the surface world
I am but a child, foolish and wandering.
Like any adolescent, I am eternally
tired: of my mother’s caveats,
men’s judging gazes, quelling words,
reminding me of my ‘place’ as if
I am nothing but an object that they
will profane and then leave aside,
having satisfied themselves as conquerors.

Like any teen, I am always misjudged,
misaligned, misconstrued, miss,
always infantilized, but simultaneously
held to adult standards, expectations,
bound by laws and rules while kept
caged in youths’ floral bounds.
They write now that he stole me,
seduced me, led me
like a lamb to slaughter,
child-bride to an altar,
tricked me as if I were a mortal.
The stain from the fruit of the dead
colors my lips still:
I bite down willingly
and eat my fill daily,
the wine-dark color a reminder
and my brand on Hades’ cheek.

Even as the eons pass, flowers budding
blossoming, fading and flowering again,
I remain eternal:
yet no perennials remain for me.
Gods are not so lucky as humans:
what mortals think of us,
we become.

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