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........ Evening before the first day of the ceremony.
Priestesses bring the sacra (symbols) to Athens.

This is the start of it.
It is evening before
the first day of the Greater
Mysteries, my first year
as Holy Woman, appointed
by the Hierophant. These hands
now ritual hands, like a midwife's!
I have been up to Eleusis
ten times before,
into the temple, but it is
always the first time
when the torches are doused.

                   I put this down, each word
                                    a first step.
I have come so far already,
thousands of steps, bringing
the sacred objects along
cut fields from the shrine
to Athens,
my feet beating the drum
of the path, my hair wound flat
to balance the red
and blue basket, sweat
carving dust down my arms.

....... Sesame cakes, poppies,
fig branches:
The sacra amount to nothing 
by themselves. Everything 
builds up to what it is 
out of love. Once, lost 
in the city, I caught sight 
of a pair of sandals, 
the edge of a patterned wrap, 
and turned that
way, crying "Mama," breaking 
a hole through the crowd. 

I imagine Persephone
trying to piece together 
what she had loved
of this world, crying out
the word "mother"
until it sounded like
"lover" to her ears, half- caught.

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