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  • Demeter Opens the Mysteries, and; Persephone in Hades, and; Persephone Finds Ruth on the Threshing Floor, and; Demeter Speaks Truth to the Powers, and; Demeter Laughs, and; Persephone Hears a Layered Singing, and; Demeter Works on Non-attachment, and; A Nude Demeter Descending a Stairway, and; Demeter's Drum
  • Susan McCaslin (bio)

Demeter Opens the Mysteries

Deo closes her eyes.

Anterior mystic, she sinks into the black boggy din

and opens them again to mystery— a shimmering sheaf of grain in Stygian gloom.

She would re-enact this closing and lifting of the eyes,

this falling open of the mouth, dropping of the jaw.

She would teach by being, and so become initiate

in her own first rites of re-enchantment,

proving in her body how the three worlds are one. [End Page 103]

Persephone in Hades

Awake as one alive among the dead, I hear voices whisper I look pale and inquire how long I’d been ill.

Some do not see me at all. Some shudder and turn. The snow is a crust I cannot consume.

I walk in my own tracks past curbside detritus— melancholic meanderings.

There is no regret, though neighbours stare at the nameless wraith,

and thrust in my hair their querulous glances. Yet I to myself am solid

as dice thrown by the wayside. Feet like roots walking, a churning aimlessness.

Only Cerberus, curious, sniffs my fingers. [End Page 104]

Persephone Finds Ruth on the Threshing Floor

Remember Ruth, that Moabite maid, pagan, who trudged with her mother-in-law Naomi to Israel and would not be parted from her,

whose woman to woman plea, no, assertion, became a model for our wedding vows?

   Wherever you go, I will go.   Your people will be my people,   and your God, my God.

That night on the threshing floor, when Ruth crept up to her kinsman Boaz’s mat,

Persephone, Queen of the Dead, dripping with golden gleanings, whispered in the girl’s ear:

   Flirt.   Make heart-choice.   Be pastoral.   Sing:      “I am Ruth, ruthless.      You will spread open your robe      redressing a rapine not your own      with loving kindness.”

And out of that night flew Jesse, and David, and the numberless unnamed daughters. [End Page 105]

Demeter Speaks Truth to the Powers


I became a wordless, dour wrath pausing only briefly at wells, wandering dust storm whorled away

where I knew myself as bond and disjunction, booty and bride, bearing within both mother and daughter

(a grain of wheat falling into the earth).


You, Greed-barons, with your poisons and wars delving and dredging my fields, you lied when you said how Hermes led her up,

for it was I who trod layers of detritus and sludge, upturning amphora, column, frieze, descending deeper and deeper

into the darkest excavations of the self, till I came at last to the seat of violation, mindless ripping asunder of clods,

unholy rites, stripping of slopes, all the vast planet stretched scarred beneath my feet.


I have torn the garlands from my hair to declare here a dreadful peace, demanding back the children

who have been given data instead of meaning, acquisition in place of a household. [End Page 106]

Demeter Laughs

I, Ianthe, old serving woman, claim honour from the gods for making the post-menopausal Demeter guffaw.

With one risqué joke, a bit of raillery, she who had been silent, veiled, refusing to quaff my herbal brew, suddenly felt the mirth rising from her left side, a swelling from the basement of the belly, staccatoed through the chambers of the chest.

First a giggle, then a titter, passed from gut to brain to heart, to lung, to eye to feet, a cavorting roundelay converting the whole household to taboo-breaking rebirth.

Laughter sang in her (definitely post-hormonal) through double dark

till she fell off her stool, and all the long-gripped fury leaked through the interstices of the room

and she, a goddess in hiding, could not cup the explosion or in any way contain it. [End Page 107]

Persephone Hears a Layered Singing

Flanked by milling shoppers jockeying for positions in line ups, I walk through an underground mall, past elegant makeup...


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pp. 101-102
Launched on MUSE
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