I’ve just returned from two weeks teaching in Sicily for Rosemont College’s MFA program. I can’t even begin to describe how magical my time there was, but I will try in forthcoming travel essays. If you want to see/hear more about my travel experiences, please feel free to friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/tawni.waters.
We spent a good deal of our trip visiting ancient temples and modern churches, so my mind was stuck in myth-mode. I dedicated a day of my teaching to the exploration of myth and had my students write myth-based pieces (which were incredible). I started this poem while in Ortigia and finished it this morning, in a hotel room in Philadelphia, where I slept off the jet-lag after arriving back in the U.S. yesterday afternoon.
This poem is based on the Sumerian myth of Inanna, who descended into the underworld, giving away pieces of her royal garb (and her power) as she descended. It’s a complex myth, and fragments are missing, but she was eventually killed and hung from a hook there. She ultimately achieved victory over death and ascended again into the land of the living. (In the early myths, the death/resurrection gods were not always male. They had female counterparts.)
The myth is seen by many as a mirror of the process a person must go through to achieve enlightenment and peace, descending into the morass of one’s own darkness and fear, losing everything one thought one knew to discover truth, undergoing metaphorical death and resurrection.
This poem shows Inanna taking back all she has given away during her horrific descent and ascending her throne in the land of the living.
WHAT INANNA SAID AS SHE LEFT THE UNDERWORLD, WHERE DEAD THINGS MADE MEAT OF HER AND HUNG HER ON A HOOK
If you ask me to leave, I will
plead. I am divine, but I am not too big
to beg you for your life.
I am, after all, first and foremost, a love goddess.
But if you insist on raping my blessed body
blaspheming my sacred soul
when I go
I will pack up my bag of magic.
I take back my ring.
I do not curse.
That is not the way of Light.
I simply take back my birthright
and leave you with what was yours.
I take back my necklace.
I call of every particle of Elysium back to my body.
I re-swallow every pretty blessing I gave
let the rainbows of them swirl in my belly
make their magic in my intestines.
I take back my undergarments.
Back in the land of the living, I will
continue to shit out miracles
more than ever before because
the heaven I gave you is mine again.
I take back my dress.
But you dear, dark clones
will become the shimmerless drones
you would have been
had you never met me.
I take back my cloak.
Slowly, my helium will leave your bones.
Wilted balloons, you will sink back down
meet cacti, pop,
shatter, shredded, on thirsty ground.
I take back my crown.
Take what is yours and leave what is mine.
Return to the trailer park from whence you sprang
as the bard sang
unwept, unhonored, and unsung.
I emerge from the cave.
I wailed for you.
My mourning is done.
I will go down in history.
You will just go down.
I ascend my throne.