The High Priestess

I entered the service of the Goddess
late in life. A widow, I left behind
grown children, my village, that narrow
field of coupled pairs. The day I left
I took the clothes I wore,
a knife, and the white dog–barely
more than a pup–who leapt
at my feet. Midsummer.
I climbed the stony path
up the mountain, stepping
through clouds of moths
rising up from grass, wings
washing me clean.

Some women stay
for a season and return
to marry, their value increased
by their time as sacred whores.
Some are girls whose blood
runs too strong–raging rivers a village
boy couldn’t slake. Some stay
for the solitude–like me,
the mountains suit them.

I found my freedom here,
in the temple where men enter
into the body of the Goddess. They must
be truly driven, to make the pilgrimage,
to climb the three-day trail. To brave
my white dog, grown large
and fierce. To withstand the odor
of the acrid herbs I burn
to become the oracle. Some
fear me, as they fear Her–she
who comforts and devours, who offers
fields fertile or fallow.

And my price? Whatever they value
most, though I do not always choose
to exact my fee. Some leave
with the precious thing intact. Some
I turn away. Some return many
times, until my cost breaks them.

As for me, I offer myself to the Goddess
again and again. I serve as I choose,
body a sacred instrument, strummed to a lyric tune.

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