by Jasmine Johnston
'It will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet.' Book of Revelation Ch. 10
I. Persephone speaks
the taste was sweet. I found
the sour overwhelming
and it stains.
In darkness, though, red looks the same as black.
Here, night lasts forever.
People snigger when they hear that,
thinking, maybe, wink, more time for making love.
Let me tell you
love needs halves,
diurnal twist and turn of sweat and sleep,
surprise and calm --
is not suffered here.
for the sour taste of seeds.
He? For the dream that it is sweet.
If not love, will pity do?
II. Hades speaks
Some call me the god who never moves.
But I move all, all, given time.
A candle guttering,
a flash on the Dark River --
eyes search cavern walls,
fingers play with lip.
Her mouth is stained, she says.
I wish I could see this, but
god of gloom, I see shadows, only. Colourblind.
Blind perhaps to other things.
What do her eyes follow?
When she kisses, is there warmth?
Bloom of the world in the seed of night --
she fears me.
I cannot say what I feel, myself.
III. Demeter speaks
I bore my child and loved her for a hundred summers,
and there was summer! The glory, glory
glory of endless day.
And when the people feared,
and threw their gold, their cattle and their dead
into the ground, into the caverns and deep sinkholes of the world,
I thought at first--'how wise!'--for do not my own seeds fall, and
perishing, bring forth substantial life?
But when my child, my child was sown,
a different thing there rose:
murder, death, cold!
The shadows swallowed day.
And I, and I, in fury that wrings gods, unmakes mortals,
In offal and in mire, in excrescence of the world
I found my own,
reverse the thing that
held her there.
love struck stone,
that still burns the world and burning
falls back again to night.
Persephone, my springtime, my precedent, my darling better. Child,
what did my bronze eyes miss?
Did I leave her there, or leaving, at least,
draw her halfways home?
IV. Helios speaks
My eyes are also bronze, they are
clanging gongs of heat.
My gaze, hot and lambent beats
on the plains of earth.
Heart heat, sintering light, melting wax my aegis.
And if I did not quite mind all the minor cracks
which flourish on face of earth? I cannot mend (but make,
a whisper tells) every clinker of clay, cannot rend
(but make) every shadow which might fall?
Still I see all.
My critics speak of sunspots, solar winds, and say, aha,
there your glede glows, and smokes, and glows again, like any glim.
How can they know? I limn
blindness. Gutter gazers,
if they dare stare.
Well, I mind this: mountains are mere platters for hot spark of snow.
The ocean a glamour I sear with heat.
Forests furnaces, green smeltering swelter.
Even the stars bow at my feet.
And I mind this as well, though I chose it not:
the road -- you know which road --
which ties, dusty and hot,
the plains of earth
the road is a woman
stretched out on her belly,
V. Hermes speaks
Ha-ha, ha-ha -- that I should witness this, oh plangent scene,
In which the rosy Helios played but
passing part -- I shall plunder this, pick clean,
mining all miracle from this mode, yet
fly from here and laugh -- oh fitting, fitting,
Demeter writhes nine days (always nine, note)
while her hussy daughter sucks seeds sweetling,
sweet, mewed and moist in marvellous cenote --
oh, dripping with tears -- while I soft drift down,
in panoply ply my art, one art, of wings,
wings, wings which wend wandering spirits (sown
in shame, raised in glory? sown weak, he sings) --
this psychopomp, howling owl -- I, I --
though not perhaps Persephone -- shall fly.
(Though not perhaps too high.)
The last word should go
To Persephone, see,
She earned it.
But since it's winter and
at the crossroads
the ring of crow and rail of raven
echoes empty -- 'she isn't here!' --
I shall speak instead.
And I say: it will be
In the silence, I say: it will be alright.
Moon months, sun's
counterpart become shadows:
I find -- can you? --
a kind of peace in this,
winter's wordless wilderness.
Wordless -- or
else all is words:
bough, twig, tone of branch in wind and
the secret turn of stylus wintergreen
Read then these black and silver lines, unlit grey, wounded white --
hear this in their snowy sussurate:
let not the dead sink down. Oh,
let not the dead sink down, no, let not
the dead sink down,
Rock drops deep into water.
Slow seep of ice into roots.
Feather-flight of another owl with horns.
Snows fall and mists rise;
the moon wanes bitter
but waxes sweet.
Let not your tears go down, no,
let not your heart go down, no,
let them not go down
My dears -- let this be enough:
Apò tou Ourániou Purós
Eis tên Hudróessan Ábusson
Katà Khthónion Hodón
Kat Aithérion Hodón
Omphalôi aeì ménousa.
Let this also be enough.
Jasmine Johnston lives on Vancouver Island and for the finding of
wisdom feasts on a surfeit of local salmon and hazelnuts and apples.
She maintains a weblog here. As to her favourite fruit, she says "my favourite fruit--though it ought to be pomegranate -- is probably its cousin apple, fresh from the tree."
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