Letter from Demeter

There it is again, dove-sob
in the eaves. I tell myself it’s a lover’s moan,
disguising nothing.

But where are the honeybees?
I hear their luck is failing. Mosquito
is the only one up and about at dawn,
hunting my juices.
I read your letter again, the paper gone
soft as bed linen in the fog—
hard message, a letter from Demeter
who’s just discovered Persephone
painting her lips with blood.

It’s all you hear these days, young girls
cursing, candles melting down to stubs, pity
so green in these girls, like
sealed sea caves.

And as for the sea, fisher folk claim
they’re returning to the old ways, the gods
of slaughter, brass harpoons going true
to the sturgeon’s heart—
most courageous of fishes, her bones
are talismans, her flesh is medicine, she’ll be
hounded from these waters.

Strange to speak of the sea
when you’re parched with thirst, all your tears
fallen from you.

They say an old woman made Demeter smile
when she ceased to believe in poetry.
Women who no longer bleed, see things
as they are—the seethe
of one body against another, immortal
phosphor and ash bearing us
and tearing us apart

forever. I hear you in the roar
of absent bees and in the mourning of doves.
Before your letter came, I would have
sworn that cry in the eaves
was a cradle song.

This poem began one foggy summer morning while I was sitting outside reading a letter from a close woman friend about her young daughter who was caught in a lost and painful time. I suddenly saw a connection between the mourning doves calling and the words I was reading, reaching back through time and imagination to Demeter and her lost daughter, Persephone, and all the devastation spreading over the Earth that followed. Once this vision of things came, I began to see Demeter’s anger at her daughter’s rape and capture everywhere, especially in the environmental collapse and massive loss of species upon us now. The natural world, which has been our joy, sustenance and inspiration, is pervaded with sadness. Disappearing forever (what we call extinction) calls for a depth dimension of mourning far more profound than grief for ordinary death which we all face… ourselves and every creature and being. Disappearing forever. Demeter’s anger is visible, palpable, audible. So what if we lose a bird here, an amphibian there? We don’t yet (maybe never will) understand that the web of life is our very body and mind, Our Self. What we are about is a colossal suicide. This reckless living is bearable only with massive doses of illusion and artificial comforts. We are caught in an addict’s trance. The love call of the dove has become a moan of fear and grief.

About the Author

Maia lives in Isla Vista, CA, site of the recent slaughter of several students by another who then killed himself, AND home of the breathtakingly peaceable beauty of the sea, bluffs, trees, bird sanctuary, and open fields. She has been writing since she was a child and plans to be holding a pen on her deathbed. Her work has appeared in more than 60 journals. In 2012 she published a book of poems, The SpiritLife of Birds, by Adder’s Tongue Press. An eco-feminist speculative novel, See You In My Dreams, will be published sometime in 2015.

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