17 February 2013

But what word was it

by Anne Carson

IX. But what word was it

Word that overnight
showed up on all the walls of my live inscribed simpliciter no explanation.
What is the power of the unexplained.
There he was one day (new town) in a hayfield outside my school standing
under a black umbrella
in a raw picking wind.
I never asked
how he got there a distance of maybe three hundred miles.
To ask

would break some rule.
Have you ever read 'The Homeric Hymn to Demeter'?
Remember how Hades rides out of the daylight
on his immortal horses swathed in pandemonium.
Takes the girl down to a cold room below
while her mother walks the world and damages every living thing.
Homer tells it
as a story of the crime against the mother.
For a daughter's crime is to accept Hades' rules

which she knows she can never explain
and so breezing in she says
to Demeter:
'Surely mother here is the whold story.
For slyly he placed in my hands a pomegranate seed sweet as honey.
Then by force and against my will he made me eat.
I tell you this truth though it grieves me.'
Made her eat how? I know a man

who had rules
against showing pain,
against asking why, against wanting to know when I'd see him again.
From my mother
emanated a fragrance, fear.
And from me
(I knew by her face at the table)
smell of sweet seed.
Roses in your room'd he send you those?

What's the occasion?
No occasion.
What's going on with the colour.
Ten white one red what's that mean.
Guess they ran out of white.

To abolish seduction is a mother's goal.
She will replace it with what is real: products.
Demeter's victory
over Hades
does not consist in her daughter's arrival from down below,
it's the world in bloom -
cabbages lures lambs broom sex milk money!
These kill death.

I still have that one red rose dried to powder now.
It did not mean hymen as she thought.

London Review of Books, 13 April 2000.
from The Beauty of the Husband

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