Poetry for the Eumenides

Eumenideia 2013

When my arms stretched high,
they came from below, the ones
with snakes shimmering in their hair.

The heavens, the underworld,
and all spaces in the cracks of existence
teeming with the reality of gods opened.

They filled the spaces within me
with the biting venom, pressing
snakes against my waiting lips.

The Birth of the Erinyes

First, a cry —
a slash in the night —
a whisper — and hissing snakes
spat venom across the sky.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
from black Nyx sleeping
in the void between the stars.

First, a cry —
a stab in the dark —
a sigh — and then silence
dripping like rain onto the Earth.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
from a scythe of cold iron.

First, a cry —
a hole among the violets —
a scream — and a marriage.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
in a bed beyond the sun, where
roots meet liquid iron
and pomegranate trees sway.

First, a cry —
teeth gnashing in the dark —
a growl — and then blood money
denied to a family in grief.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
slighted Poinê bore them in retribution.

Erinyes

We make our beds in the land of knives beyond the Styx among
blades so sharp they cut through flesh, sinew, and bone so our
serpents can suck on their marrow — sharp edges that slit open
throats of a hundred black lambs bleating their last while stars
screamed the mourning cry, shimmering beyond the vault of night.
We come from across the waters — dancing — reveling — entwining
live snakes in our belts and constricting our bodies in
pebble-soft anaconda skin, just as we have since the sickle
sprayed us through the night sky and we fell, naked and crying,
and landed on the creation-hot patches of red-glowing rocks.
The three of us split the ground open and burrowed like worms
deep into her belly and nurtured a hatred for the worst misdeeds.
We draw iron chariots for the broad-armed Silent King and
comfort the Lady of Sighs when she spits pomegranate bones.
High are our honors: we know who you are, all you have done,
all your dust-ground ancestors accomplished and unleashed.
Those who drip honey and leave raw wool on our altars
and those who wash sin with cake-ashes we bless and free.
Those who know the Mysteries approach us unblemished.
Flee from us if you must: we run with the owl-guarded queen
to whom Zeus himself gave highest honors among gods,
and her retinue contains a hundred ghosts and vengeful daemons.

To the Erinyes, Who Remember All

Erinyes: we pray to you because you remember.
Erinyes: we pray for understanding of the ancient
practice — how to cool your rage with sweet honey,
milk, and blood to pacify the souls you represent.
Erinyes: we pray that you, lawyers in the court of souls,
accept the price we have paid for success,
those phantasms of gold dancing in our ancestors’ eyes.
We may leave rare steak and milk at midnight,
but the memory of restless ghosts is razor-sharp.
The dead and dying remember all.
The dead and dying whisper in your heads.
The dead and dying bite at our heels.
Erinyes: give them the milk as a balm for their cut feet,
give them the rare steak to soothe their empty bellies.
May you and the dead accept our prayers.
May Persephone comb the snakes from your hair.
May you bathe in the soothing waters of Hades,
remembering always these sacrifices given,
and may we never forget the honors owed to you.

Exacters of Justice

Our ebony Erinyes have remained unyielding since
Spilled blood sprayed them across the heavens.
As babies, they played with hooded snakes.
As children, they wielded spears and swords.
As women, they now keep the peace of the dead.
Exacters of justice, like a fire they sweep through the land,
black as scorched ground, our growling night-cats.

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