Poetry / Anne Barngrover
:: Ceres in the Red Tide ::
The ocean retches and collects. We have mistaken you, our water god, for a savior of fallow pastures, your ruling planet for a fixed star. A message blinks through the ether: Let’s work on improving this together. But it’s too late for prayers when salt animals distend heavy as sodden paperbacks, toxic script penned on every folio. They cannot hide in their septic shells, and you cannot return the light energy you harnessed from the sun. Don’t you remember? I tried to run from you with hooves and quick reacting tendons—I transformed myself into a mare. Neptune, brother, you would not rest until you overpowered everything that needed blue to breathe. You plunged your own house into the Great Dark. You sealed our throats with rocks. Haven’t you always proved the impossible equation, never seen with the naked eye, discovered only through ancient math? I could not escape from you by horse or will or sheath of grain. The ocean remembers. The planets remember. My body remembers everything you’ve done.
:: Ceres in the Global Heat Wave ::
Have you ever tried to sleep as winds thrash a lofted room the way a god of evil flogs a wooden ship at sea? You feel very small. If it weren’t for cliff gusts and morning fog, we’d perish like snails do on this dark and dry land. They’ve been trying to live since the era when islands weren’t yet islands but a part of seedlings’ collective dream, white and spiral. I am not from any country or generation. This doesn’t take place anywhere in particular, except for now maps look like they’re screaming. Too hot for ruins. Too hot for roads. Fake popcorn flowers on real cobs. Butter’s gloss undermines the ruse, as if we required hyperbole to prove what went wrong. I’m rubbing the apocalypse in your face, I guess, since I don’t get to be moody otherwise. If men are mad at me, they hurt me or they leave with the blue stoneware of my heart, and I never uncover it again. Tonight, I’m the hottest I’ve ever been. I figure if that star doesn’t move by the next time I look up at the sky, it must be real. Art needs an artist, words need a writer, and stars need to be believed, but what can I say about faith when I’ve given the last of my warnings? I loved you in the marginal seas and those not defined by currents. I loved you with salt on my lips and in small sounds too numerous to list aloud. I’ve been trying to live since the era of your silence, which fills with trapped air like a gasp that goes on and on, and I’ll never be emotionally detached for you to take me seriously. I can’t save every slug on ash and asphalt, but I’ll touch their dank bodies with hands not clean enough to hold. Too hot tonight for rain. Too hot for eyes to close. I lie awake all night listening as you take the world from me—little by little, then all at once.
From the writer
:: Account ::
These poems speak in the voice of the Roman goddess Ceres—whose Greek counterpart is Demeter, mother of the fateful Persephone—the ruler of agriculture, women and girls, fertility, and, randomly, cereal grains. I became compelled by the myths of Ceres because I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between the way that our planet is being treated and the way that vulnerable people, especially women, are being treated in tandem. This “Ceres series” imagines: What if this timeless goddess were plopped down in 2019, what would she be thinking? After all, in their stories, goddesses never escape the violence and pain of the world themselves. Ceres’s feelings of betrayal, rage, desperation, and grief, often caused by those she loves, as well as her insistence on truth-telling and resilience, are familiar navigations for me. Partially, this is because I live in Florida, a beautiful, otherworldly place rife with the horrors of poisonous algae, disappearing species and coastlines, increasingly unbearable heat, and some of the highest reports of cyber attacks and fraud in the country. I ask the unanswerable question in these poems: Can we save ourselves from the hell we have created, or have we already gone too far?
Anne Barngrover’s most recent book of poems, Brazen Creature, was published with University of Akron Press in 2018 and is a finalist for the 2019 Ohioana Book Award in Poetry. Currently she is an assistant professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University, where she is on faculty in the Low-Residency MA program in Creative Writing. She lives in Tampa, Florida, and you can find her online at annebarngrover.com.