Cleo and The Nine Days

For nine days then all over the earth mighty Deo roamed about with bright torches in her hands, and in her sorrow never tasted ambrosia or nectar sweet to drink, and never bathed her skin. But when the tenth light-bringing Dawn came to her, Hekate carrying a light in her hands, met her, and with a loud voice spoke to her and told her the news...Homer, Hym to Demeter

                 ........ My name is Cleo. 
I live in Agrae, so close to Athens 
that when the sun goes down, 
the city seems to rise in front 
of me, a strange contrast of rugged 
rock and polished marble. All 
the gods are there, serious
and still, paused from their battles,
so we can see them.

........ Each god used to take 
a region of the country, 
without contention. They fed us,
their little flocks. 
One god for ourselves, 
but the others came to visit
like cousins.

........ I am not a philosopher
or a poet, only an amateur,
but I think about these things.
I think about why in the same
marketplace, one can buy figs,
turnips, law-suits, 
porridge, indictments,
One doesn't choose figs
and hate the rest.

........ I, for instance, choose Demeter,
or she chose me. Dear 
Demeter, longing
over the earth, begging
Zeus, "Tell me where to find
Was Zeus the trouble? Or
Hades, who stole her daughter
down? The trouble was the loss,
the great mother's terrible
loss, before any living thing
could rise again.
Was she quiet?

........ I have heard her wail
and rage. I, myself, wail
and rage. Grass has barely begun
to come up on my dear Callipatira's
grave. When I cry out her name, 
she stays in the world 
for awhile.

........                Heaera, my live
daughter, almost old enough
to leave home, it's not sensible,
but I think, what if I lose her,
too? Each of us turning
to kiss the other's cheek, somehow
just missing. I write this 
for her, risking my life to tell
the mysteries at Eleusis. Soon enough, 
she can know for herself,
but where is her own mother, in that?
Here I am, put a face on it 
before she's out the door,
the talk everywhere of Zeus, only 

People have been killed
for telling. It is as if I am 
two people, one a quiet wife
to Nicanor; one stubbornly
wailing Goddess! I, Cleo,
am here, ears and mouth and all. 


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