This has been kicking around the internet pseudonymous!y for years, and since it’s turned out to be the most popular thing I’ve ever written (so far, anyway!) I figured I should actually have it attached to my real name somewhere.
The truth is, I was bored.
My mother blissing ahead of me, rosebuds rising in her footsteps,
And I skulking behind, thinking,
Oh look. She walks in beauty.
Her power could boil rivers, if she chose.
She doesn’t choose. She scatters
Heliotrope behind her.
And me, I’ve no powers. I think she’d like
A decorative daughter. A link to the humans
She feeds with her scattered wheat.
A daughter wed to a swineherd’s just the thing
To show that Demeter’s a down-to-earth
Kind of goddess.
Do you know what swineherds talk about?
Diseases of, ways to cook;
“That ‘un’s got no milk for ‘er shoats;
Him, there, he’s got boggy trotters.”
And when he leaned in, smiling,
While we sat in a bower sagged with Mother’s honeysuckle,
When he said, “Now,
My herd’s growing and I’m thinking I could feed a wife—”
That’s when I snapped, I howled, I ran.
And when a hole opened up, a beautiful black, in all the pastels of my mother’s sowing.
Let me fix the lie: Nobody grabbed, nobody pulled.
I thought it was a tiny earthquake,
Thought I was killing myself,
Starting a long journey to Hades.
It was a more direct trip
Than I’d imagined—
I landed in his lap.
He just looked at me, said “Well,”
And kept driving his chariot down,
Flicked his leather reins near my face.
He did not give me flowers.
He never spoke of pigs.
Didn’t speak much at all. Just took me down in darkness
And did dark things.
I liked them.
I stumbled through his grey gardens, after,
Sore and smiling.
And the gardener said, “Little girl,
Little sunlit flower,
You belong in the world above.
Trust that they’ll come for you,
But while you wait
Don’t eat the food of the dead, for it will trap you here.”
And I said give me the fucking fruit.
But when I ate I could hear her howling,
See her spreading winter on the world.
My poor mother, who missed me after all;
My poor swineherd, starving.
Huddled up for warmth with the few he hadn’t eaten.
I spat out half the seeds.
So now I suffer through the summers,
Smile at the swineherd who tells me
Which shoat is off its feed.
Smile at my mother and walk behind her.
My powers have come to me now, and in her candy-colored wake I scatter
Sundew and flytrap, nettles and belladonna.
I smile and wait for November,
For when I come back to you.
Your clever cold hands and your hard black boots.
I don’t ask what the leather is made from.
I don’t think I want to know.