DEMETER

 

Once in my youth I saw her,
feared her, fled her.
Once heard her rustling wings,
her voice behind me, summoning.

There was something she would say,
something then I would not hear,
something youth won’t contemplate
in the springing of its year.

In the stormy fields of summer,
deceived, I thought that she was gone,
all that dizzy hot green summer
on the shore of Acheron.

But all green hayfields fade to yellow.
Autumn rains erode the clay.
All the cornfields rustle yellow.
Nothing green can stay.

And as I walk the fields of stubble,
my own gray shadow blocks the sun.
I see my breath-cloud in the air
and black crows gather everywhere.

3 comments on “DEMETER

  1. Sue says:

    Hi Mary –
    Love this poem. Was reading last night a book called “The Heart Aroused” by David Whyte (subtitled Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America.) He quoted this poem by Blake which yours reminds me of. Here are some of the lines:

    So he took his wings and fled;
    Then the morn blushed rosy red;
    I dried my tears and armed my fears
    With ten thousand shields and spears.

    Soon my angel came again:
    I was armed, he came in vain;
    For the time of youth was fled
    And grey hairs were on my head.

    I didn’t know the exact story of Demeter, but I did some research and what I like especially is that early on she embodied all of the women archetypes – virgin, mother and crone. I’m assuming you’re tying into the later version, where she is the goddess of the harvest, especially of the giving of corn. In this vein, she speaks to the fall of our lives. But do you think if we hear her earlier, we face our ultimate deaths and then are free to live our lives without fear?

    • I’m glad you like it, and thank you for the Blake reference–I do think he was doing a similar thing. It’s a poem I tried to write for years–ever since I was in my thirties (I’m now 62). I have been fascinated by Demeter for a long time, and her daughter, and the dark mysterious figure of Hecate, who lurks around the two of them–and yes, I believe they are, or were, all aspects of the same goddess. I think it may be possible to face the “harvest” aspect of Demeter–the loss of Persephone, the coming of winter– early in life–which starting back in my thirties I was trying to do–but there’s something about the realization being old oneself that allows one to become the archetype in a very different way. At least, that has been my experience. Again, thank you.

  2. Here’s a link to a wonderful poetry blog–First Known When Lost–and poems much better than mine–that are working on the same theme.

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