Demeter Searching

A nymph could have told her,
had it not been changed to water,
the belt in her hand was proof
of violence, violence, violence.
Unthroated, the water reflected
a murmuration of stars, blinking
their silent objection
as if to say, see the lilies spilled,
here the hyacinth, here the rose,
and I will give no more the fields,
and I will give no more the throat,
whatever the hunger. As it happens,
a girl can survive the dark so long
as someone sorrows for her, if there
are roots to climb so she might lie
face-up in a field, sun in her eyes,
parented by sweet grass and rain.
But when the cry came, no one
knew this, not her mother, not even
the daughters of Ocean who buried
themselves in the sea floor and waxed
anemone in fear and mourning.
So much could have been said, but even
the most public songs are private,
and the caves of our dwelling echo
only the sounds we shout. Years later,
the children of Eleusis would follow
the thread of Demeter’s searching,
from puddle to sky and death’s reunion,
in hope that they might too be sought,
that the gods might negotiate
on their behalf. They climbed hills,
objected to crushed flowers, prayed
water might open her mouth again,
and ears of grain in silence reap.

*

Christina Mengert‘s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Tupelo QuarterlyNew American Writing, Tarpaulin Sky, and Web Conjunctions, among other journals. Her book of poems, As We Are Sung, was published by Burning Deck Press in 2011; she also co-edited, with Joshua Marie Wilkinson, the anthology 12×12: Conversations in 21st century Poetry and Poetics (University of Iowa Press). She currently works as faculty and Assistant Director of College Programs for the Bard Prison Initiative, a program that offers a liberal arts education and college degrees to inmates in New York State. She also edits Dial 2, an online arts and culture magazine.

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