In Memory of Bessie, Kathleen, Addie, Cora
Farmwoman's Initiation (after the style of Sappho)
When you were young, Bessie,
with golden hair tumbling to your knees
you caught rain in a magic bowl
and washed your hair there.
The goddess knew what you were about.
Then rain and mystery you gave my mother,
she, the sweet one, of silvery laughter’s darling,
and then to me, the uninitiated.
I was brought to rain’s softness
and you called me to be brave
go out and walk barefoot in the dew
with nothing on but my nightgown
made of pale moonlight
now diaphanous in the morning sun.
Is there no relief or understanding
of the pain in my womb, mothers?
These nymphs have dug up
the sacred sassafras root
boiled it and blessed it
given it to me to drink.
A potion from mothers to daughters
from that sacred thicket
and all is well—only good has come of these things
since Aphrodite blew her kisses.