‘Demeter Does Not Remember’ and other poems by Mary Madec


I land in you unexpectedly,
down and something silky like new grass
and it is soft and I fit perfectly
like in memory foam
and maybe it is a memory
and it is silky like a caress, your fingers
stroking me
and new, I have never come here before
and green somehow like soft summer
warming me
down deeper than I have ever known
and maybe you heard the whimper
as I gave myself to
the comfort of you concave
as a moon but not cold or blue
and I gave myself as a child
extends her little arms wide
and trusting on the world
the edge between inside and outside
blurred like tears blur
eyes that still see
and your arms wrap around me and I am satisfied.


Hades to Persephone

Your hand is so close it could touch mine
but you pull it away in time
tracing the boundary
any closer and I step
into your shadow
you into mine
and rather than disrupt
affection’s awkward reach
we play at catch the plural pronoun,
go round and round each
of our language islands,
eddies of meaning in the delta.
This vertigo of words
could throw us into each other’s arms,
leave us confused
about how to distribute
endings on verbs,
as their tense, their mood come to light.

Demeter Does Not Remember

Persephone, her shadowed daughter
in the portico, peeping through the cracked wall.
Or what she said to keep her away.
Or what she gave her to dam her legs
when blood flowed,
red into the underworld.
Demeter cannot remember her first smile or teeth,
the words she made.
Persephone would have liked to know.
Now, a woman, she looks into the still lake of her dreams,
filled by the purlings of the Styx.
What does she see?
She walks away heartbroken
from the quivering reflection.
Cries out, ‘Demeter is not me.’

Soon It Will Be Winter

And Demeter does not know what she hates most
about the change-her straw hair, her broken nails,
a shrivelling up inside, no blood rain,
insomnia as she tosses her tired head this way and that.
She thinks of Persephone, the daughter she fed
and is jealous of those pert little breasts,
those eyes, reminding her of another bed
where she was desirable as a wife.
She can feel her hardening arteries, her sagging eyes
stretched to crows’ feet as she smiles.
There is no sap inside her anymore, a greyness
rising up through her thighs.
Persephone is wet with smiles
her soft legs parting for Hades.


Demeter: Coming of Age

As I bathe alone, I wonder
what would be a good outcome.
This time I let my head
below the level of the water
and my hair spreads out
like thong weed in the sea.
My middle-aged body lops
and the water makes
tides around my hips
and breasts.
My legs with their varicose veins
the legacy of maternity
I embrace
I let it all hang out.
It makes no difference now
that this man or that
loved this body
rested on it like summer sun
on grass
Just as the grass barely notices
the creatures who crawl on the earth
just as the earth itself is indifferent
to movements on its surface
waits for boiling magma
to rise up to its thin skin.
It will take something like this
to shift the tectonic plates
reunite the old continents.


You turn me around and change the frame.
You’re sorry and winded.
There’s some awkward readjustment of limbs,
like trees that find their branches
when the wind dies down.
We go back the way we came, the cloud breaking up
as it comes in from the sea.
Everything from this angle looks different,
you take out your thermometer,
barometer, wind vane:
The outlook is good, you say:
Cumulonimbus calvus, your favourite,
a sky filled with narrative,
great big faces puffed,
playfully portentous.
You say they will be tipped
with red and gold at sunset.
© Mary Madec

74755Mary Madec was born and raised in Mayo. She studied at NUI, Galway (B.A., M.A., H.Dip Ed.) and at the University of Pennsylvania from which she received a doctorate in Linguistics in 2002. She has published widely (Crannóg, West 47, The Cuirt Annual, Poetry Ireland Review, the SHOp, The Sunday Tribune, Southword, Iota, Nth Position, Natural Bridge and The Stand Orbis, The Fox Chase Review,The Recorder among others. Her first collection, In Other Words, appeared with Salmon Poetry in 2010 ; her second collection, Demeter Does Not Remember also with Salmon Poetry at the end of 2014. She has received several awards and prizes most notably the Hennessy XO Prize for Emerging Poetry in 2008. She co-founded a community writing project and she teaches a residential course at Kylemore Abbey every summer. She works for Villanova University in Ireland.
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