Anne Barngrover

Ceres in the Field of Bones

Be real with me            for once           and answer:      So one season
               of destruction            is not enough for you?               I’m not sorry   
I was never drawn to you like I was drawn to the high sea. 
Somewhere along the way, I developed an internal ocean.
Underwater, there’s still agriculture. I can swim
deeper than darkness goes. When you took my love
from me, I could not bear to look at flowers anymore.
Accounts vary. Stories unstitch to make me smaller
but I remember what I wanted:
                                                   to slash at the root, to rend my nails
bloody in the dirt until I found you—
How do you kill an undead god? Raze the barren
strawberry, coltsfoot, wine cup, the cut-and-come-again. 
In the trees                                  magnolia petals perch like swan 
napkins, cream. They brown sweetly as banana peels. 
                                                    Tear them in fistfuls from their branches.
I can’t stand you seeing colors
when all I see is wind                and brine tide pools. No starfish. Nothing 
to point at that’s mine. If you must spare the poppy,   
orange-sick and lustful            then break a record of spring rainfall—
                                                    a super bloom we can view from space.
May the fields glow like daughters
                                                     before you poison them all.  

Ceres in the Environmental Personhood

             “Hail goddess keep this city safe!”
             -Hymn 13, card 1

Listen, I don’t want to leave my job. I just want an apology
because it’s not my fault that you were made stupid
by the fear of blasphemy, which is really your own need
for control over other minds. A person cannot be owned
so therefore, neither can a river. Neither forest nor field. 
All living systems share a common destiny—indivisible 
and whole from the mountains to the sea, the right to exist, 
to persist, to maintain and regenerate their vital cycles. 
A goddess belongs to herself, which is to say I don’t belong 
to your environment or your economy if I choose 
my shipwrecked existence, my dark-walled home. 
Here is the world’s greatest secret: my daughter lives 
in art and summer and golden leaves. I have no daughter
or I have every one. She is the personification of vegetation. 
I am the mother of the goddess of death: savior maiden,
bringer of fruit, child of bread. Here is the greater secret
no one wants you to know: she went willingly in search 
of her own depth and power. That means I must go, too. 

From the Author: These poems are written in the voice of the Roman goddess of agriculture, women and girls, and cereal grains, as imagined in the twentieth century Anthropocene. Ceres is the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter, the mother of Persephone. 

Anne Barngrover’s most recent poetry collection, Brazen Creature, was published with The University of Akron Press in 2018 and was a finalist for the 2019 Ohioana Award for Poetry. 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, and lives in Tampa, Florida.