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Mother Mourning

Updated: Dec 31, 2023


“So, there with angry hands she broke the ploughs that turned the soil and sent to death alike the farmer and his labouring ox, and bade the fields betray their trust, and spoilt the seeds. False lay the island's famed fertility, famous through all the world. The young crops died in the first blade, destroyed now by the rain too violent, now by the sun too strong.”

– Ovid


Red. There are so many shades of Red.

Light as ochre pollen on your skin and deep as claret wine.

Red like seeds that pop beneath your teeth and stain your lips with sunrise. Red like the nectar dripping sliding down your throat smooth as glass and dribbling down to dry, sticky, in the creases of your wrist. You follow the flavour down, down the soft skin of your arm to the end where you remain.

Red like candle flickers in your mind, behind closed lids and charcoal lashes brushing on your cheeks. Like the flush of exertion on your breast. Skin on skin. Red like the roses crushed and forgotten, staining the impure sheets of your marriage bed. Petals on silk.

Red like dying leaves and drying clay where crops once grew and now lie in rot. Blooming barren where my mother walks but does not yield. She never did hear when I spoke. Red like blood that washes alters and prayers that go unheard beneath a mourner that I never asked to mourn. I am happy, Mother. Do you hear that?

Red like the screams of a birthing bed and the scarlet strain on children's faces as they, unknowing, beg for food that cannot come. Red as eyes when tears and milk have dried, and hungry infants weep no more.

Ochre like pollen and deep claret like the grapes that grow in spring. Scarlet like crescent moons on palms pale from winters spent beside the Lethe. A row of four. As red as ghosts, pressed thin to pink for every summer through from spring.

Red like burning embers in you throat and in your chest that could be anger, but mostly masks regret.

I was not a child.

And you were not the only Mother Mourning.

Insp. Demeter and the Starvation of Mankind by Ovid. Many modern retellings of the Persephone myth re-imagine the story to give Persephone more agency, having her either walking into the Underworld willingly, or choosing to stay having fallen in love with Hades. If such versions were to be true, and Persephone a willing participant in her marriage, then Demeter's actions to retrieve her become more sinister than that of a grieving mother demanding the return of her abducted child.


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