Persephone’s behaviour

March 10, 2019

We the daughters of the twenty first century are not mystified by Persephone’s behaviour. In school, we learn that Persephone is frolicking in a field when Hades kidnaps her and take her underground. Persephone’s mother Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, freaks out. Every plant in the world dies. Eventually Persephone is found… she looks anorexic. Hades says that she can leave if she must but first why doesn’t she eat this. It’s not till she emerges into the weird sunlight — it’s not till she’s in her mother’s kitchen sipping pumpkin soup—it’s not till Demeter sighs with relief to know her daughter didn’t eat anything down there — that Persephone makes her confession about the six pomegranate seeds…What Persephone will never mention is the rich unending night, the earthy smell of scotch on his breath, the way he mocked the universe and everyone in it but was so tender with the dead, with her, with beasts and ghosts. How low his voice got when he told her attempts would be made to separate them. Now, we the daughters of the twentyfirst century are going to marry men our mothers don’t quite love. These men seem dark to them, dangerous, lacking in good posture. We sit at our mothers’ tables, trying to explain why we have chosen to settle in distant, inhospitable cities…we suggest to our mothers that they read a certain Greek myth; they raise their eyebrows at us as they always do now-a-days; the grass begins to shrivel in the ground, and in the orchard the apples sicken on the branch.

Helen Phillips
The Mothers
And yet they were Happy

WITCH-WOMAN

December 11, 2018

“Witch!
Witch!
Cursed black heart,
Cursed gold heart striped with black;
Thighs and breasts I have loved;
Lips virgin to my thought,
Sweeter to me than red figs;
Lying tongue that I have cherished.
Is my heart wicked?
Are my eyes turned against too bright a
sun?
Do I dazzle, and fear what I cannot see?
It is grievous to lose the heart from the
body,
Death which tears flesh from flesh is a
grievous thing;
But death is cool and kind compared to
this,
This horror which bleeds and kindles,
These kisses shot with poison,
These thoughts cutting me like red knives,
Lord,
Thunderer,
Swift rider on the clashing clouds,
Ruler over brass heavens,
Mighty ruler of the souls of men,
Be merciless to me if I mistake this
woman,
As I will be merciless if I learn a bitter
truth.
I burn green oil to you,
Fresh oil from fair young olives,
I pour it upon the ground;
As it drips I invoke your clemency
To send a sign.
Witches are moon-birds,
Witches are the women of the false,
beautiful moon.
To-night the sign
Maker of men and gods.
To-night when the full-bellied moon
swallows the stars.
Grant that I know.
Then will I offer you a beastly thing and
a broken;
Or else the seed of both
To be your messengers and slaves forever,
My sons, and my sons’ sons, and their
sons after;
And my daughters and theirs throughout
the ages
For your handmaidens and bedfellows as
you command.
How the white sword flickers!
How my body twists in the circle of my
anguish!
Behold, I have loved this woman,
Even now I cry for her,
My arms weaken,
My legs shake and crumble.
Strengthen my thews,
Cord my sinews to withstand a testing.
Let me be as iron before this thing,
As flashing brass to see,
As lightning to fall;
As rain melting before sunshine it I have
wronged the woman.
The red flame takes the oil,
The blood of my trees is sucked into fire
As my blood is sucked into the fire of
your wrath and mercy,
O just and vengeful God.”

Body touches body. How sweet the
spread of loosened bodies in the coil
of sleep, but a gold-black thread is
between them. An owl calls deep
in the wood.
Can you see through the night, woman,
that you stare so upon it? Man,
what spark do your eyes follow in
the smouldering darkness?
She stirs. Again the owl calling. She
rises. Foot after foot as a panther
treads, through the door—a minute
more and the fringes of her goat-
skin are brushing the bushes. She
pushes past brambles, the briars
catch little claws in her goat-skin.
And he who watches? As the tent –
lap flaps back, he leaps. The bearer
of the white sword leaps, and follows
her. Blur of moonshine before —
behind. He walks by the light of a
green-oil oath, and the full moon
floats above them both.
Seeded grass is a pool of grey. Ice-white,
cloud-white, frosted with the spray
of the sharp-edged moon. Croon—
croon—the wind in the feathered
tops of the grass. They pass—the
witch-white woman with the gold-
black heart, the flower-white woman
—and his eyes startle, and answer
the bow curve of her going up the hill.
The night is still, with the wind, and the
moon, and an owl calling.

On the sea side of a hill where the grass
lies tilted to a sheer drop down,
with the sea splash under as the
waves are thrown upon a tooth of
rock. Shock and shatter of a golden
track, and the black sucking back.
The draw of his breath is hard and
cold, the draw of the sea is a rustle
of gold.
Behind a curl of granite stone the man
lies prone. The woman stands like
an obelisk, and her blue-black hair
has a serpent whisk as the wind lifts
it up and scatters it apart. Witch-
heart, are you gold or black? The
woman stands like a marble tower,
and her loosened hair is a thunder-
shower twisted across with lightnings
of burnt gold.

Naked and white, the matron moon urges
the woman. The undulating sea
fingers the rocks and winds stealthily
over them. She opens the goat-skin
wide—it falls.
The walls of the world are crashing down,
she is naked before the naked moon,
the Mother Moon, who sits in a
courtyard of emerald with six black
slaves before her feet. Six—and a
white seventh who dances, turning
in the moonlight, flinging her arms
about the soft air, despairingly lift-
ing herself to her full height, strain-
ing tiptoe away from the slope of
the hill.
Witch-breasts turn and turn, witch-
thighs burn, and the feet strike al-
ways faster upon the grass. Her
blue-black hair in the moon-haze
blazes like a fire of salt and myrrh.
Sweet as branches of cedar, her
arms; fairer than heaped grain, her
legs; as grape clusters, her knees and
ankles; her back as white grapes with
smooth skins.

She runs through him with the whipping
of young fire. The desire of her is
thongs and weeping. She is the green
oil to his red flame. He peers from
the curl of granite stone. He hears
the moan of the crawling sea, and
sees—as the goat-skin falls so the
flesh falls….
And the triple Heaven-wall falls down,
and the Mother Moon on a ruby
throne is near as a bow-shot above
the hill.
Goat-skin, here, flesh-skin there, a skele-
ton dancing in the moon-green air,
with a white, white skull and no
hair. Lovely as ribs on a smooth sand
shore, bright as quartz-stones speck-
ling a moor, long and narrow as
Winter reeds, the bones of the skel-
eton. The wind in the rusty grass
hums a humeral-chant sat to a jig.
Dance, silver bones, dance a whirl-
igig in a crepitation of lust. The
waves are drums beating with
slacked guts. Inside the skeleton is
a gold heart striped with black, it
glitters through the clacking bones,
throwing an inverted halo round the
stamping feet.

Scarlet is the ladder dropping from the
moon. Liquid is the ladder—like
water moving yet keeping its shape.
The skeleton mounts like a great grey ape,
and its bones rattle; the rattle of the
bones is the crack of dead trees
bitten by frost. The wind is desolate,
and the sea moans.
But the ruby chair of Mother Moon
shudders, and quickens with a hard
fire. The skeleton has reached the
last rung. It melts and is absorbed
in the burning moon. The moon?
No moon, but a crimson rose afloat
in the sky. A rose? No rose, but a
black-tongued lily. A lily? No lily,
but a pruple orchid with dark, writh-
ing bars.

Trumpets mingle with the sea-drums,
scalding trumpets of brass, the wind-
hum changes to a wail of many
voices, the owl has cased calling.

“White sword are you thirsty?
I give you the green blood of my heart.
I give you her white flesh cast from her
black soul.
Thunderer,
Vengeful and cruel Father,
God of Hate,
The skins of my eyes have dropped,
With fire you have consumed the oil of
my heart.
Take my drunken sword,
Some other man may need it.
She was sweeter than red figs,
O cursed God!”

Amy Lowell

Flame dancer

I skipped between the dancers, twirling my skirts. The seated, masked musicians didn’t look up at me as I leaped before them, dancing in place. No chains, no boundaries – just me and the music, dancing and dancing. I wasn’t faerie, but I was a part of this earth, and the earth was a part of me, and I would be content to dance upon it for the rest of my life.

One of the musicians looked up from his fiddling, and I halted.

Sweat gleamed on the strong column of his neck as he rested his chin upon the dark wood of the fiddle. He’d rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, revealing the cords of muscle along his forearms. He had once mentioned that he would have liked to be a travelling minstrel if not a warrior or a High Lord – now, hearing him play, I knew he could have made a fortune from it.

“I’m sorry, Tam,” Lucien panted, appearing from nowhere. “I left her alone for a little at one of the food tables, and when I caught up to her, she was drinking the wine, and -”

Tamlin didn’t pause in his playing. His golden hair damp with sweat, he looked marvellously handsome – even though I couldn’t see most of his face. He gave me a feral smile as I began to dance in place before him. “I’ll look after her,” Tamlin murmured above the music, and I glowed, my dancing becoming faster. “Go enjoy yourself.” Lucien fled.

I shouted over the music, “I don’t need a keeper!” I wanted to spin and spin and spin.

“No, you don’t,” Tamlin said, never once stumbling over his playing. How his bow did dance upon the strings, his fingers sturdy and strong, no signs of those claws that I had come to stop fearing … “Dance, Feyre,” he whispered.

So I did.

I was loosened, a top whirling around and around, and I didn’t know who I danced with or what they looked like, only that I had become the music and the fire and the night, and there was nothing that could slow me down.

Through it all, Tamlin and his musicians played such joyous music that I didn’t think the world could contain it all. I sashayed over to him, my faerie lord, my protector and warrior, my friend, and danced before him. He grinned at me, and I didn’t break my dancing as he rose from his seat and knelt before me in the grass, offering up a solo on his fiddle to me.

Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses

Swamp

August 31, 2014

floatingintheair

The man who drowns himself
then lives wants me
but is frightened. He fears
the dark pools he has to swim
through to find me,
imagines them bottomless
and thick with strange fish.
He fears leaving his house
behind, or worse, trying to strap
it to his back and losing
it midway, watching it sink
to purple depths,
small girlish fingers
slipping out of reach.

(Rachel Kerr)