Issue #8 November 2016
Detail from Deer Playing Hide n Seek with Sparrow by Tim Frisch

Sarah McKinstry-Brown

Demeter, on Hope

I settle my gaze on dust trapped in beams of sun,
and marvel at its frenzied spinning, its silence.

The door I believed would never shut,
is closing, my daughter’s bright voice humming

on the other side. It is my turn to listen and wait, to want
as I taste the tears that lingered in the corners

of my own mother’s mouth. I sip my wine
and stare at the clipped violet placed in a vase

with just enough water to keep from dying.
The women plant bulbs in their gardens,

and all I can see is another thing
that will need tending.

Demeter Prepares Persephone for Departure

What is this curious ritual? She lives,
and I prepare her for burial. I bathe her,

massage oil of the olive into her skin,
braid baby’s breath into her hair,

the two of us weeping. Tomorrow
I will watch her walk toward the rising sun

until she disappears, swallowed by that field of clover.
This is a burden I do not know how to shoulder.

What mother is tasked with watching her daughter
die over and over?

Persephone Says Goodbye to Her Mother

Let me go.

Watch me from the window.

Look for me in the ivy climbing the trellis,
the black berries that ripen

in winter. Blind, reaching,
don’t let us be like men,

arms outstretched, insisting
a woman cannot make her way

in such darkness. I know now that love without loss
dulls us. When the women

lead their fattened cattle to the shed,
the sharpened blade is kindness.

Demeter Watches Her Daughter Walk Away

Longing for what I cannot touch
feeds a madness that makes me too much like men.

Best to release the rope, and forget how to swim; best to sink
to the bottom and stay there until the sun

becomes a myth, a marvelous lie, the lullaby

all mothers will hum as they tuck in their daughters.
The hills green and clamoring,

my daughter’s name strewn like seed to feed the gaggle,
the girls who must be kept

from wandering. I’ve wailed, I’ve wailed for so long
how can the words not turn to song?

Demeter: On the Eve of the First Frost

What no one tells you about loss
is that your wishes become small.

I keep what she left behind:
cuttings, a handful of wilted petals,

a locket of hair, an eyelash, the cup
where her lips last lingered as we breakfasted,

her mouth stained the deep red
of cherries. The delphinium she gathered

all those months ago

have turned from red, to blue, to ash.

Demeter, First Snow

I gave my whole life
to softening. My body, my soil,

loosening and turning itself over
to bed the seed of every creature’s hunger.

No matter how long the harvest, how sharp
the till,

someone always goes hungry.

always wants more.

Chorus: The Mothers Comfort Demeter

This is the season of unraveling.
She has changed, gone from bright yellow

to whispers, and nothing will keep her
from disappearing. We saw this end coming, saw

how easily it took her, the pitch of your voice
as you called out, verging

on something ugly.

No matter how far you run, you will not reach her
as she rounds this bend. Her hair trailing,

catch a last glimpse of the girl you once knew.
You know how this must end. Breathless,

the sun rises. The story
begins again.