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Tuesday
Oct162012

pomegranate

I open my mouth. The scream escapes. It is a primal, ancient scream. The Banshee wail that precedes death and mourning. It has been building inside of me through all of my tragedies, humiliations, fears. But the death of my daughters propel it forward, out of me. It is also the scream of Demeter. It comes from deep inside of all women. The goddess roars through me. It is hardly a noise one knows before a child dies, it is something entirely different. A different cry, an animal sound, a wild rage that tears through normal ears. It is the hurricane. The volcano. The typhoon. It is in the Ancient Greeks, the Druids, the Celtic gods, the old Norse and Inuit tales where I find my story into the underworld. We babylost are no longer of this era and we should stop trying to be. We come from the distant past. The grief goddesses inhabit us to retell their stories. We channel their woe, their anger, their cries. We are transported to a place halfway between heaven and hell, the blessed and the cursed, the living and the dead.

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I can only really muster worship to the goddesses of grief--Demeter and Hecate, the Norse goddess Frigga, the Aztec goddess Coatlicue. There is a distinguished lineage of goddess grieving. She rarely behaves well. I learn the lessons of grief from mythology. I starve the world. I punish others. But the earth people will be restored. It is me who withers again when Summer leaves, every year, when I am reminded of my daughter's death. It is me who curses the most human parts of myself.

The chill moves through me. I nod to Autumn, bow to her, make elaborate arm gestures to welcome her through my life again. Autumn equinox marks Persephone's descent--her return to Hades, the god who abducted her all those millennia ago, raped her, held her captive in the underworld, fed her pomegranate to seal her fate. Her mother Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, begins her long walk around the world weeping, mourning, taking the life from the crops. Autumn equinox marks my descent too. I walk into my grief season, seizing the harvest, choking the life from everything around me, falling into a deep darkness. It is a welcome turn, when the earth and sky match my insides. It is my slow trudge until my daughter's death day on Winter Solstice.

This veil is thin now in October. Do not underestimate its power. The ancestors step just out of view, like through a gauzy film, whispering: Be better than you think possible.

I shake my head and rub mud into my skin. I light bonfires and bring them forward. "Oh, no, I mourn now, grandmothers. I am my shadow and myself. Two people mourning. Weep with me. Share half a tear, half a cry with your half-daughter."

On the first year, when the earth opened and swallowed Persephone, Demeter walked the earth for nine days searching for her daughter. She ate nothing. She drank no ambrosia. She refused to bathe. She just hunted her only daughter, desperate and possessed with the finding. There are rumors that Persephone screamed before she was taken. Hecate heard it, in fact. And they ask Helios, the sun god, who tells them it is Hades who stole the virgin, raped her. When she was told what happened, she enlists the help of her friends Famine and Petulance to punish the humans until she can see her daughter once more. They are the withered old hags of goddesses, but powerful nonetheless. They delight in cauldrons of poison and starvation and cackle to themselves. And Demeter, a compassionate goddess, felt justified in her actions.

Persephone is allowed to return home only if she has eaten nothing. But she could not resist the allure of the blood red pomegranate, sexy and furtive. The juice drips down her chin, and Hades licks it off her, sealing her fate to return for six months every year.

photo by zenobia_joy.

I find myself jealous of Demeter, seeing her daughter for six months, exacting her grief in such a global way.  And the jealousy reads like a sweet nectar of what could be. I drink in the hope. Lucia ate pomegranate in my womb. Or rather, I did. I pulled the seeds from the membranes one by one until my hands were sticky and stained. I didn't know better. The seeds shone like garnets in my hand. And I, gluttonous and greedy, ate more of the underworld. I couldn't stop at six. I ate the entire fruit and then more. I ate resentment and anger, grudges and hurt egos, swallowed them whole. They were still alive and writhing when they hit my stomach, inches from where Lucia slept.

When she died, I walked this liminal land, the space between the dead and the living. The land running alongside the river Styx. I barely heed the warnings of those who came before me:

Do not pay the ferryman if you see him. Do not approach him. But wave across to the others, vacant and plodding through the dark. Ask for your child. Wail, if you must, the shriek of Demeter will be recognized here. But do not get on the boat. And for the love of everything holy, do not eat any pomegranate seeds yourself any longer. They mean something different now, love. Even though they taste like Lucia. They mean something different.

I have existed in liminal spaces for a long time. The borderlands are my patria. My homeland. I am half white and half-Latina. Half-American and Half-Panamanian. I am half a believer, half a skeptic. I am half straight and have AB positive blood. The creatures drawn to me wear horns, and tall boots with twenty-seven buckles, and white make-up, wooly vests and listen to songs about vampires, but work in a corporate office during the day. I live in a suburb, a small town that feels like mid-town. Halfway between city and country. We have a farmer's market and tattooed vendors who smile at your bike trailer and say, "Right on."

After the first snow without her, I became half a mother. Half a breeder. Half of my children are dead. I have half a song. It is about winter, and the triple goddess, and pomegranate seeds which I suck just enough to be allowed visitation rights. She is gone and my summer never comes. Just space and time until I grieve again.

It is half a myth without an ending.

 

Do you feel between worlds? Which ones? Do you feel close to certain myths or stories now? Has that changed since the death of your baby(ies)?

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Reader Comments (12)

Beautiful post, Angie!
I feel like I'm stuck between worlds, between death and life, between this world and the one that is out there for us after we die. I really loved how, at the end, you said, "I became half a mother... I have half a song."
Even though I don't have any other children, I really relate with that. If she would have lived, if her birth had been clothed in something other then death and sadness, maybe then I would be a full mother, with a full song. But as it is I am only half.
October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily C
This gave me chills. The thought of the earie scream that ones from the depths of our souls when our child dies. I too would wander the world in search for my daughter if I thought I could find her. And the half person you become. Yes this makes sense to me.
October 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRenel
Waiting. On hold. I feel like this is not the life I was meant to have, if I just....something, I don't know what yet, then my real life will start. I'll get there right?
October 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia
Beautiful, and so chilling. Powerful. All words I've often thought about your writing, Angie.

I can't say I've ever felt close to the myth of Demeter and Persephone, in the past or the present. I'm terribly jealous of Demeter. I wish I could have my daughter with me, even for only a portion of the year. I've always preferred Hecate, even more so now. A guide through the mourning process, one who understands and gives of herself. One who watches and protects. I've spoken to her before as a Maiden. Now with innocence given way to experience, I reach for her, and she is there. Comfort in the night.
October 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara
Yes, I feel between worlds, and often like an imposter in whichever world I'm in.Sometimes I think , in thie everyday world I'm a warning, a shadow, someone to tip toe carefully around incase I am infectious.
I ate pomegranite on my birthday when Florence was inside, something I've always remembered.
As for the scream, I've always been too afraid of it to let it out.
Beautiful writing Angie. x
October 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeanette
As I screamed for my child and tore my clothes I heard so earily in my mind a quote from the book of Matthew which tells of a city of women screaming for their children "because they were not." That has always haunted me because I have become Rachel mourning for her child and I scream with the city of Rachel's who children were not.
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October 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterertdfgasdf
Another precious gift from you through your written words.
I also feel between. Between worlds, between the life of before and the life that will be after, only I'm not sure the life after ever really comes. Between life and death. Maybe we babylost are always between.
I went on a MISS Kindness walk today and we wrote her name on river rocks. We planted seeds and cried for our dead babies. All of us, women and men, brothers and sisters, between. Everywhere and nowhere. The others don't understand us, so they fear us. They fear becoming one of us, and so we are never truly among them. I vacillate between feeling transparent and feeling like a neon sign. I am either an object of curiosity and speculation (why is she always so angry?) or I am invisible. I don't know which is worse.
I scream when I am alone. When this life I am forced to live now becomes too much. When I simply can't take another moment without her. It scared me to hear it that first time, how primal and foreign it sounded, but it was a tremendous release. Maybe someday I will stop worrying about the others, the ones who will never understand, and I will scream in the street, at the store, in the front yard. I want my scream to travel across the dimensions and reach you so you will know you are not alone. And her, so she will know how much I miss her.
October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoy
Thank you for this, Angie. Yes indeed.

We go to the cemetery. A lot. This past summer I was walking from her grave to the car, to bring back something like candles, or a vase, or a trowel. I became very conscious of the dry grass prickling the bottoms of my bare feet, of the sensation of a million tiny needles poking my skin. Painful, but not unpleasant. The word "Borrowed" popped into my head. Borrowed, all of it. The feet, the grass, my body, her body. Borrowed, so that we could be here together in the very physical, intimate way of pregnancy. My time, her time, here on Earth-borrowed.

Since AdiaRose's death I have felt very much like I live between two worlds. I still like trees. I still like my husband, my older daughter, my son, my family. Butter. I like butter. I see that staying is a choice, but leaving seems impossible, when I examine what it entails. So maybe it's a sentence. I've lost interest in a lot. I think about where she came from, and where she is, and who she is now. I like to read books about heaven, fiction is fine. My heart is half here with my husband and older daughter, and half there, with her, wherever that may be.

Thank you for this, Angie.
October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen
WOW!! This is so beautiful and so painful and gave me chills. Thank you for this! I feel the same way. I am half of everything I was.
October 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndi
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