When I was pregnant with Kaleb, one of the things I craved was pomegranates. I found some on sale for 2/$1.00 (quite a pomegranate bargain, don't you think?); I bought twenty of them and ate every single one. You have to really want to eat a pomegranate to spend the time scooping out all the seeds; underneath my nails was faintly ruby/purple stained for a few weeks. After the twenty were devoured, I started craving oranges, and my pomegranate penchant faded into pregnancy myth.
Last week, though, Costco had pomegranates. Even better, they had pre-scooped-out bowlfuls of pomegranate seeds. No faint staining required, so I bought some (even though they were far too expensive!). Last night, as I was finally feeling better after my weekend illness, I sat down in my quite house (as everyone was sleeping) to eat some pomegranate seeds.
And I burst into tears.
That flavor, and especially the texture, the juiciness surrounding that little white snap, took me right back to the early days of my last pregnancy. How can my days of pregnancy be finished? It's one of the things I did well in my life. But more specifically. When did my pregnancy with Kaleb end? I mean, I know when it ended, of course, as I was there for an hour's worth of pushing. But how did it pass by so quickly?
It's so me, though, to be analyzing even as I cried. I realized that I was crying for several things: for all of my pregnancies, for the lack of possible newborns ever in my arms again, and really, really: for time itself, and how its ultimate bequest is separation. Motherhood is about separation, at its roots, because you do all you can so that these little creatures can head out safely and (hopefully) mentally and emotionally prepared for the world. And then I started laughing because it hit me that it was pomegranate seeds that made me cry---next to the apple, the oldest fruit of ending in the world.
You know the Greek myth of Persephone---she is taken away from her mother, the goddess Demeter, by Hades to live in the underworld, and her mother mourns and this brings winter. Demeter does everything she can and gets her daughter back---but alas, Persephone has eaten the pomegranate seeds Hades gave her, and now she is no longer innocent. Nothing will be like it was; she will only get to be with her mother for half the year. So time goes: Persephone with her mother in the spring and summer, when Demeter rejoices and gives us flowers and growing green things; Persephone with her lover Hades in the fall and winter, when Demeter grieves and takes away the flowers.
I love this Greek myth---it's my favorite one. It's why I laughed as I cried last night. Because this ache of separation, of knowing what is my life right now, my children still young enough to really need me in their lives, will end. But knowing that all mothers in all times have felt that same ache. Unlike Demeter, we don't get to take away all the flowers. Tears seem awfully futile. There's really nothing you can do---nothing I can do---except to try and savor the days.
Which brings me to the poem. I have a goal, come January, to start memorizing poems, two a month. (This is my little stab at preventing Alzheimer's.) But this is a poem I memorized ten years ago, after I read it in one of my university lit classes. I respond to it on so many levels---because of loving the Persephone myth, and because of the language the poet uses (read it out loud to yourself and you'll hear why it is a poem), the repetition of blue, because there is just one flower left, enough to light his way, because even when we are descending we all want some light with us.
~D. H. Lawrence
Not every man has gentians in his house
in Soft September, at slow, Sad Michaelmas.
Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark
darkening the daytime torchlike with the smoking blueness of Pluto's gloom,
ribbed and torchlike, with their blaze of darkness spread blue
down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day
torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto's dark-blue daze,
black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,
giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter's pale lamps give off light,
lead me then, lead me the way.
Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
Let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower
down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness.
Even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September
to the sightless realm where darkness was awake upon the dark
and Persephone herself is but a voice
or a darkness invisible enfolded in the deeper dark
of the arms Plutonic, and pierced with the passion of dense gloom,
among the splendor of torches of darkness, shedding darkness on the lost bride and her groom.