poem08 Apr 2019 08:00 am
Euridice recedes into the Underworld , Enrico Scuri

John W. Sexton

She remembered the first time
her mother had told her that the soul
could leave its fossil in the air.
She had been a child of seven
when her mother had taken her
to the door in the lake.
The door was set three miles
beyond the island of reeds,
just above the deepest part.
There her mother had made flat shoes
of woven reeds for both of them;
and they had trod out
across the lapping surface
of the blackening water. On arrival
her mother had tapped seven times,
seven slapping taps
against the lapping wavelets
with a laurel stick;
and the door had opened, a slash
of opening. As they stood at its threshold,
careful at her mother’s caution
not to step beyond it,
a dark column of shadow
rose out of the door.
This is the murky light
of the downworld, said her mother.
Look through it and you’ll glimpse
the fossils of souls.
But now her mother was long dead
And she had come out to this spot again.
She had tapped seven times
Against the lapping water
And the door had opened.
When the column of dim light
rose out of the lake
she had stepped through the threshold
of the door.
And that is how your grandmother left,
in search of her own dead mother.
Because she had crossed the door alive,
and because we have never seen her soul
fossilized in the air, we expect her to return.
They say there is a spiral of stairs
that leaves the ground at the touch
of moonlight. We have never seen
these stairs, but we wait for them
to unscrew through the yielding earth,
and for your grandmother and her mother
to step amongst us again.
On that day you’ll see your great-grandmother
in her filaments of light
and will realise for yourself
how the dead can summon the living
through the door in the lake.


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