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Epic poem on the ancient Greek 'Rites of Eleusis', which were the most important of all Greece. Eleusis was the centre of the Cult of Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The ancient Rites granted a vision of immortality to their initiates.

The poem contrasts an imagined idea of the Rites of Eleusis with the modern town of Elefsis, which I visited six years ago.

ELEUSIS

Me_cafe_rougeby Jake Murray30 Jan 2015

ELEUSIS

i

She sits alone
In the silence,
Wrapped in a shawl
Of the deepest night,
Sunk in contemplation,
Waiting, dark hair long
About her neck and shoulders
Flecked with the years,
Brooding. She does
Not turn to see us. We
Cannot see her face. And
She waits. The same each year
Remembering the long months
Of sorrow, anger blighting the fertile
Lands to winter, pain reducing her
Steps to tears. Then summer comes
As her Daughter returns to her arms
For a short time, a short time only,
But a time of such rejoicing the corn
Bursts in the air, the sun smiles
In splendour, the clouds skip across
The sea-blue sky amidst song and dance
In the fields.

It is like this every year.
In the dark, in the night
She waits here, remembering,
For the procession, shouts
And chanting in the distance, torches
Held in the air from the City. The eve of
Her Daughter's return to what lies beneath,
But before she goes, the gift of fire,
Gift of immortality for those who tread
The way, for those who come
To her door.

ii

Surrounding the huddled stone
Are buildings. Factories and homes
And cheap tavernas break the
Grey monotony of the city's edge
Where cars and buses, trucks
And wagons roar on roads of
Tar that crawl, polluted
To the horizon.
Even the Greek sun cannot make it
Beautiful. A sign points to a museum
But it is hard to find
Persephone,
Hard to find Eleusis in Elefsina,
Not far from the Acropolis
But a world away
From its beauty; exchange of
Gold for grimness.

Years ago she stopped here
With the King and Queen,
The two only who would take her in,
Robed as a beggar, the Mother of the World
Nothing more than a stinking hag,
Wrapped in a mask which hid her fear,
Shrouded her grief in illusion
Few could see.
It was here that she stopped
And rested, warm fire, food and drink
And pity, even she needed room
To weep her tears before a man
And a woman who knew nothing
Of her grief.
And for this kindness
Immortality for their child.
Ancient hands, veined and cragged
Hold the tiny limbs in the flames
As the night's work is done
Of change and transformation
Hardening skin
Against the years.

iii

The procession
Approaches, crowning the hill
With fire and faces glowing
With light and expectation.
A week's walking, a week's
Singing and shouting led by
The Daughter,
Her tread unseen
On the sand and grass, dark
Hair in tresses about her neck,
Dress flowing in the autumn
Air, happy
To see her Mother

Who stands
As she sees her,
Still her back to us,
Shoulders proud and regal
Beneath the moon
Which frames her, light flowing
About her like a sea
Of white, a Queen. Sense
Her sorrow, sense her joy
At the meeting, the coming embrace
And togetherness, heralding
In that moment return to the
Underworld, loss for another age
Before she comes
Again, but before then
A holding which will last
As if forever.

Moment of movement,
Moment of turning
As Mother and Daughter are one
On the flagstones, pale
And grey in the darkness
Joined by a third, unknown
Figure, a Maiden like a shadow
With golden corn
In the night, held in an embrace
That sees them merge
Together into something infinitely
Old, but flowing,
Infinitely young.

The crowd gathers,
Cradled in expectation,
Breathing. About them move
The Priests and the Melissae
Silently waiting, positioning,
All watching the loving embrace
Of Lover, Loved and Love
In the centre.
A moment pregnant with
Anticipation, as if the stars stand
Still, as if the Earth for an instance
Waits until
It is time.

iv

I approach the precinct in the afternoon
But find it sealed with wire. Forgotten
By the city, over the road the clink
Of drinks and laughter of guests
Who do not know where they are eating
Small
And hemmed in, what once
Kept Heaven and Earth in place
Is now a pile of rubble. Fingers along the
Fence I walk and imagine, eyes straining
To visualise the pillars, the Temple,
The stone floors trodden by sandled
Feed or bare soles, toes treading
Lightly in a dancer's respect
Through the night.
See

Corn harvested,
Bound like golden figures
In fields. Threshing and song,
Sweat beneath the day,
Stalks withering in the sun
Leave seeds as the body dies,
Ready to give new life
Deep in the soil,
Bursting from the Earth to reach
To the sky
As the Moon stands
Horned, changing as she changes
From weakness to strength to
Weakness again.
But the Moon
Is never gone, to human eyes hidden
But the presence never fades
As the soul moves between bodies,
Never dying,
Never done
With the journey through the darkness
Always moving
On.

v

See this image as the three
Dance silently, stately in the moonlight,
Tears flowing between women's eyes
Down
Over smiles and gazes of recognition
So old.

Then the flame
Caught in the eyes,
Surrounded by stone in the distant
Chamber where our look is turned
In the night.
Herded slowly,
Song and murmuring, fear in the
Darkness. See the flame.
See the fire, flickering,
Changing, red then white
Then gold then blue,
Shimmering. Like hypnosis,
The light burns,
The mind loses itself
Deep in the forest
Of heat and silence as the Daughter
Stands in the pyre, dancing.
The eye closes. Move
Towards the fire, fear wells up
As lids scorch and skin
Weeps

To step in. Corn. A knife.
A seed split in perfect stillness,
Song echoing in the back of the mind,
And we are lost
In an expanse
Of fields
That stretches forever,
So free. Singing.
All is
Complete. No end.

vi

Memory of this.
The modern sun beats down.
Eleusis is closed. There is no entry.
Two Romans ask me to take their
Photo, Italian faces and warm
Smiles embarrassed that they too
Arrived too late.
The camera clicks. We exchange
A few words and wonder.
The rubble lies drying
In the daytime, flies buzzing about
The rocks. A landscape
Now reduced to nothing, fenced off.
Not even a ticket will get one
In.

Sighing feet brush the road
As I am left alone. Elefsina returns
With retsina and ice cream. The hotel
Waits in Athens. The long day closes.
Drink and food
Before home.

But she sits in the silence
Somewhere, waiting,
Wrapped in a shawl
Of deepest night. The Daughter
Watches,
Alone.