Tea with Hades


Mum caught me feeding this bone-thin , stoned dryad.

She slapped me hard. You're no good, such a stupid girl.

That morning I left her, ran off to live in the woods.

I thought trees would shelter me, stooped

to pick petals off some weird black flower, then had

an urge to take the track to the motorway's edge.

The van was on the hard shoulder,, anonymous.

Its window buzzed down, his voice like a burnt-out star.

I went over to hear more. I'm lost, how far is it

to Mount Olympus? I stared into eyes all pupil.

He pushed the door ajar and gestured. Enter.


Six vitrified blood drops on black tablecloth

reflecting candles. He's counted pomegranate seeds

To remind you of us, darling. He obviously believes

in these small, nostalgic gestures, needs proof

we are a genuine couple, King and Queen

of this airless, bolted, steel-doored realm.

This god, who could hang a disobedient wife

on a meat hook as lightly as he'd hang his coat,

hankers after roses, incense, little notes...


I undress for him in the dark. He wipes me all over

with antiseptic tissues then rubs in neroli,

heady ,sour-sweet,. He's addicted to rituals

where I'm just the right kind of flesh . Still,

his caresses are tender, he waits for me to come

before he'll take his pleasure. Not selfless. Care,

exchanges, the acts of love I'd read about

are not how it works in the Underworld.

He's used to fake trees, unresponsive shades.

His father went mad with fear. He swallowed him.

When I hear my Lord scream in the night it, is

his mind's howl: half eaten by divinity's juice,

his mouth spitting muscle to chew at air.

He tells the story again, and again. I listen:

my eyes blur from over-focusing, my skin

breaks out a hot, sweet sweat as though this body

is a sugar lump losing its shape in tea

which he is churning with a spoon.

Occasionally, he's kind. Seeing me lonely among the dead,

He lends me jigsaws, books, a radio :

I can listen to Zeus' peccadilloes, Hera's rage

but he switches it off when they mention Mother.

Of course, a phone is out of the question.


He relaxes a little, starts taking me out

over the Styx, on some time-bending train

towards the sky. I'm not the same, light stings

like a vengeful swarm, too many voices whine.

As I wander the meadows, almost stupefied

by bluebell ooze, she pounces. Demeter. My daughter,

what has he done to you? My tongue is superglued

to the roof of my mouth. I stare blankly at her

so she cries. A few steps backward. We'll get

you help, the best . Now I face an Inquisitor

gentle, just gagging for details. I weave in fiction, fact

that he used to smear my lips with dark chocolate

and you know, guess the rest. To fill the void

I admit I miss his smoky voice, soft shaded hands.

He's beneath me, in the black, sensing my loneliness,

plotting recapture. I wait, I can be patient

I can suck my stash of pomegranate seeds.