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.