Dionysos

by Kaye Cleave

 

Because I was at the Hot Springs

on the third anniversary of my daughter’s death

and a full moon glowed, an iridescent disc —

 

because I floated, naked and alone

in the shimmery water of the communal pool

while silent silhouettes steered their mates,

boats slipping around me

a ghost-ship lost in the mist —

 

because I was left to drift,

eyes shut in this temple of mourning,

when someone asked, may I hold you?

I said yes

 

as if it was perfectly natural

for a nude man,

a looming shadow in the twilight,

to cradle me like a baby.

 

I gave myself without thought

to my aging breasts wobbling on my ribcage

like tired jellyfish

and sank into his workmen arms.

 

I was a survivor,

a relic of the underworld,

gliding in a glittery ocean.

 

When he came to my room

I welcomed his weight pressing on me,

looked into eyes flecked with gold

as his fingers explored my face

with the tenderness of a bygone lover.

 

My body cracked open

like a newly born planet

 

and I cried out to my Dionysos,

protector of misfits,

communicant between living and dead.


 

K CleaveKaye Lesley Cleave began her career as a teacher, first in Australia, and then in England. She earned an MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco (2002), and a PhD in creative writing from the University of Adelaide, Australia (2006). From 2008–2010, she was a research scholar at UC Berkeley.

Kaye has travelled extensively and worked in various countries; a grape-picker on a kibbutz in Israel, a sales-woman in Germany, and croupier in London. Her first book, Once More with Feeling, was published in 1996. She is currently completing a book of poems about mothering and loss and seeking a publisher for her memoir, Catherine and the Little Buddha.

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