“Eurydice, dying now a second time, uttered no complaint against her husband. What was there to complain of, but that she had been loved?” — Ovid, Metamorphoses
Disregard what poets tell you. They hear the thump of their own hearts and think they have discovered a universe. Or presume that my beloved, musician to the gods who never flubbed an entrance in his life, might in eagerness miscount the beats remaining to lift his wife back out of death. Turn for me too soon, an accident.
You living march toward darkness like a parade, joyous and cacophonous and blind. Whereas I have already worn my shroud. And I have already tasted ashes. The sunlight you steep in cannot thaw bones already chill with such fore-knowledge.
See the truth. In his final triumphant crescendo, Orpheus heard a single word fall from my mouth like a stone:
“Wanna bite?” the old woman asked,
holding out her cherry-red confection
polished and gleaming as a new Corvette
or a little girl’s patent leather shoes
on Sunday morning.
Should’ve tipped me to the truth, that glow alone.
Nothing from nature shines straight from the tree,
the earth, the ocean. Not before violence:
the pearl deslimed of its oyster’s flesh,
coal hewn from the depths and lit ablaze.
Even fruit does not reveal its juicy glisten
until split open by greedy teeth.
But I was tired and not attending as I should.
It’s long days, caring for grown men small enough
to resemble children—or call them children
grown destructive enough to resemble men. No matter. Princess is only a title that escapes drudgery
when some other woman’s close to hand.
What I’m saying is:
Maybe I did notice, after all.
Maybe I did understand.
“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
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.
She slouches in, ever the surly adolescent;
slides like a grouch into her chair.
Her father, Priam, last king of the impregnable city (Lo how the mighty walls of Troy forever fall)
is griping again his common complaints of shifty royal advisers
and tax collectors delinquent for the season.
Queen Hecuba purses her lips and frowns; passes down green beans
instead of the mashed potatoes her daughter asks for.
Heaving a weighty sigh, Cassandra tries to catch the glance
of a close-seated sibling, second eldest among her 50 brothers.
Fails, as expected. (Paris’s eyes already so full of Helen
whose beauty he has yet to see. Hands already so full
with the taste of her, he snatches in practice at scullery maids,
at the cook’s assistant; bears them off unwilling
into closets and dark corners—previews
of the world-ending snatch-and-run yet to come.)
The prophet sees in the distance her own snatching,
how this time next year she’ll be knocked up with the Sun God’s curse— would-be curse, she corrects herself; disbelief comes as a burden only to those unaccustomed to being disbelieved—
and laughs, distracted—a beat too soon,
interrupting her father’s joke before its punchline.
A minute later, redeems herself from his glare by laughing again,
this time at just the right moment in just the right way.
Under the table, she cups her ever-to-be-unpregnant belly
already swelling with a god’s seed,
already feeling the stories push and flutter beneath her skin.