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"The Seventh Seed"

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"Rise and approach,"
     says the young queen.

I hesitate.

With my eyes closed,
     the herdsman's wrinkled old face
         appears
         before me
         just as it had been,
     when lit by the harvest bonfire,
     when his resonant voice
       had risen
   and dipped
         and wound
     through the landscape
         of his words.

I see my brother's face, too,
     attentive to the story
     that would consume his soul...

Of the daughter of all-nourishing Demeter,
     at play in the meadow
     in one moment,
     and in the next,
         hauled,
     kicking and wailing,
through the maw of a new-formed cave.

Of the sunless realm of Lord Haides.

Of the six swallowed seeds.

Of the ruling of Zeus.

Then,
     from the story's aftermath,
when the herdsman
had steered his song from the wheel ruts
     of a thousand retellings,
my squinted eyes recall
     every line of the man's brow
     as he drew us
         into his conspiracy.

"The maiden kept a seventh seed,"
     he'd said,
"with the power
     to turn
the wintery seasons
     of Demeter's grief
     into a Stygian darkness
     that could
         shrivel forests and fields,
         frost the grasslands,
         and spread an ice
             that would
             never
             again
             know
             springtime."

These fire-bright memories
     burn
my inner sight,
     leaving behind a darkness
         as deep
     as the shadows
of a nighttime farmhouse.

I hear my brother's excited whisper again
     just as it had wormed its way
     through the wall
between our bedchambers.

"Pyrrha,
     you and I
     must quest for that seed."

"You would destroy the world?"
     I'd asked.

"I never would,"
     Lykomedes had laughed.
"I'd just like to know
     that I could."

I open my eyes,
     and rise,
         never so alone as now,
     to approach
the Queen of the Dead.

Greg R. Fishbone
July 2020

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