Inanna Ascending

“The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. Certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable. Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried.”

~ Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery

“From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below.
Inanna set her mind on the great below and abandoned heaven, abandoned earth…
Who has ever ascended from the underworld,
who has ascended unscathed from the underworld?”

~ from the Sumerian epic Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld


I. Invocation

Queen of heaven’s ziggurat!
Bringer of war and bestower of lust,
Mother of humanity!

If you cannot divine which holy face I turn
towards you from the sky,
remember only this:

You fail to worship me at your peril.

II. Rape Under the Palm Tree

Ask what was I wearing that day
and I will tell you: rags / robes /
nothing at all.

Ask and I will tell you: my sovereignty
flying across the sky like a rainbow.

Ask and I will turn
your blood
to water.


Who dares call himself a “gardener”
when every seed
he touches

Who dares pray for his crop’s fertility yet decides
a goddess asleep beneath his shady palm
presents a different opening
too enticing
to pass

Would that he’d killed the barren field’s only tree sooner.

Would that during some black-thumbed fumbling in his jockeys
he’d thought to rip out his own

III. Descent Through the Seven Gates

I did not admit even to myself where I began heading next.

Not until I reached the first gate
and a priest of lamentations demanded
I give up my crown.

“What madness is this?”

“Inanna, you must not open your mouth
against the rites of the Underworld.”

Each gate, the same demand: goodbye staff,
goodbye armor, goodbye golden ring,
golden necklace, golden dress.

“Inanna, you must not open your mouth—”

Translate the fragmentsthey’ll tell you
what happened past the final gate, my last garment gone:
The judges turned the afflicted woman into a corpse,
they hung the corpse upon a hook.

And just like that,
I was toast.

IV. Inanna on the Meathook



V. Ereshkigal

See her rotted fingernails, her eyes like pitch.
Body bloated like a drowning victim as she floats towards you.
Hair adorned with spiders.

Queen of the Under-Earth,
Lady Death.

She presses bloodless lips against my own, belly swelling
fecund with snakes: unless the writhing I feel
is only maggots moving
inside myself.

VI. Inanna Returns to the Heavens as the Planet Venus

They say I traded my lover’s life for my own, in the end.
Hung his body on the meathook in my place to make my getaway.


Truth is, no corpse ever gets off the hook.
No soul ever comes back from the dead.
Not intact.
Not full as it went in.

They say other things too:
how I attended a sky bull’s funeral, and fashioned mankind
from the gunk found under a god’s fingernails.
How the morning star & the evening star
are really both the same planet.

I say: Hollow eyes see better in the dark.

My advice?
Burn sage for the parts you leave behind
and if you do come across the stink of a dead god’s dirt,
hold onto that crud.

Everything has use
and not even the cavern of your now-empty chest
has room enough
for pride.

VII. Blessing of the Goddess

You whose jaw is heavy,
You whose words exceed what a heart can bear:

Have patience.

The dead are listening still.
The dead are with us

We shall bring them too
when at last we rise
for battle.



PostScript: Resistance takes many forms. Phone calls to reps. Marching in the streets. Loving fiercely in the face of state-sanctioned terror. On Nov 6, VOTING.

Resistance takes shape, too, in the stories we tell ourselves and each other. In the way we keep our minds clear of authoritarian fog. In the untrammeled shape of our imaginations.

In that spirit, this is my offering today against hatred, against becoming what they in their violence tell us we are. No:

We are always as we make ourselves.

more from the Myths & Fairy Tales Project

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