Why ever should Demeter mourn?

 
       For her lost daughter,
Demeter wears the colours of fall, then those of winter.

       First, the brazen reds and golds of shock and rage,

And reckless grief which burns through every turning, thirsting leaf,

       Then, when trees are bare, she dons the drab rough cloak of grey and brown,

The sackcloth of mourning, hanging heavy and dismal around her,

       At times, when most weary with care and loss and having cast off

Like useless rags, the rich bright dress of benevolence, she hides behind a veil of white,
      Quietly threatening death, made ruthless with hunger,
Starving for the very presence of her stolen daughter,

      Goddess of plenty made harsh and ravenous.

 

      For my lost daughter,

I wear no black, not even grey or lavender.
      Not a single leaf fell sighing to the ground
At the first sharp frosts of my grief,
      Nor did earth harden with the warmth of joy withdrawn,
There was no heavy fall of snow to proclaim silently to all: “I mourn,
      Here lies my sorrow, deep and blank across the empty fields forlorn
And desolate; it is there in every breath you take of freezing air,
      It holds fast the frozen land and lake, now all things living
Will feel and see, how the world appears to me; cold, alien, unforgiving,
      As I, disconsolate, will now surely be.”
 
      In endless winter man and beast will die, so heaven intercedes
For the release of Persephone from the gloomy halls of Hades.

     Some claim Hecate, others say Iris and Hermes were sent to plead

So life on earth might go on, and the sad god of the underworld concedes to grant
     The girl provisional return; each spring she will return to her mother,
And remain on earth till summer is over.
      With each new beginning, Demeter rejoices in shades of green,
Warms the yearning land, blesses unfurling growing things,
      Meadows awaken with countless flowers, wild and bright;
Persephone gathers these, as she did before, when her days were spent in sunlight,
      When she was maiden: happy, carefree, innocent.
 
      Some mortal suffering it seems, has little power to win
The pity of the gods, least of all command the seasons, or threaten famine.
      My heart alone froze through having raged and burnt too long,
My spirit, starved of light, grew dark, fertile ground turned barren,
      Heart and spirit shrunken, all generous feelings gone.
To no avail were prayers and pleas, I mourned and heaven looked coldly on.
      No gentle intermediary came forth to plead for her or me,
What priceless gift did I possess which could then be withdrawn?
      What ransom could she or I have paid?
And with heaven so very far away, what earthly bargain could I have made?
      No, our severed selves went on our separate ways.
 
       Grave priestess of the underworld, unwilling bride of death,
Persephone will forever be life’s daughter, returning to give each spring new breath
       As Kore, always young, as is her mother Demeter.
Goddesses, time cannot touch them, and even when summer cedes to autumn,
       And the girl descends to solemn Hades,
Precious seeds lie sleeping in earth enriched by leaves
       Fallen to earth the year before, and even as the mother grieves her loss,
The yearly cycle turns, spring comes, the daughter then returns
       And Demeter claims that which is her own once more.
Dark seasons of separation only hold in store,
       Greater riches for seasons of reunion.
 
       Another daughter must remain among the shades; I am no seer,
And yet at times, I sense her flit across the room, then just as swiftly disappear,
       Brave little ghost, who haunts me here, in my own twilight-lit, liminal place.
No image of her face looks across from a table at my bedside,
       No pretty box contains a lock of silken hair,
No remnant of a favourite dress she would often wear,
       And the stern, straight line of linear time edges forwards towards endings,
Mocking mortal longings, and as it always will, the yearly cycle turns,
       Springs come and go but none brings her return or shakes the heart with joyfulness,
What joy indeed, in being blessed, to bless in turn in thankfulness,
       Why ever should Demeter mourn?

Copyright © 2015 Alison Noble.

Alison Noble retains all rights to this work, granting Fickle Muses one-time, non-exclusive electronic publication rights. Please contact the creator to request permission for reprints or other uses of this work.

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