It’s that time of year again, dear friends…
He was not expecting the sounds to come from the depths,
even though he knew the clang of cymbal and tambor
from the Phrygian priests of the Great Mother.
He had heard the lament for Palaimon in Corinth,
and had recalled the women’s cries for Adonis
on many a humid summer evening in his youth.
But this was a different sort of weeping,
a lamenting and a crying that shook the sinews
of his soul near clear of bodily fetters.
It was painful in the depths of his marrows to hear
the wail welling up from the depths of the telestrion,
the howl more plaintive than the howl of all the wolves of Arcadia.
The chains of Chronos melted around him
revealing a titanic gap in the cosmos,
empty, filled only with the wail of the Mother.
The daughter, the Maiden, lost to her embraces,
and even more heart-rending, more bowel-churning,
more tear-deluging, the child in the fire on the floor.
A thousand images flashed before him, the Bithynian boy,
of the goddess of olives and spear-points
who had never yet had a brother born to her…
Of the Queen of the Gods and her brother and step-daughter
swayed from rebellion by the gentle arms
of a titaness who called the sea her realm…
And of that titaness, married off to a mortal
so that a child by the Earth-Shaker or Thunderer
would not upset the order of the cosmos…
And even the child of her daughter by her brother,
father of the daughter himself, who in a mirror’s flash
would lose the kingship of the gods for a time.
But one would yet come who might be all of these,
or perhaps two or more–for who could say?
The shadows of lives yet unlived were an oppressive tumult.
Out of them, he saw a young man near him, a few years older,
now decades older, a husband and father and consul,
with his child initiated at the hearth, happy…
And the wife, called by the name of the goddess Deo,
near him and alive, but then dying suddenly,
only to be the image of the goddess and in her company…
A child, older than Demophoön but not as old as he,
in the chlamys of the ephebes, being instructed
as his ship sailed for the cold spring past the white tree…
With a rush, he became dizzy, his stomach like an aching pit
of titans falling into Tartaros as his knees nearly buckled,
but he steadied himself against his lover’s shoulder.
Hadrian knowingly turned, smiled, and Antinous did not know
whether his flash of white teeth was the reassurance of love
or the smile of death from Hades at the side of Persephone.
The wailing was over, and heroes had passed into other realms,
while the spirits that had been called forth dissipated,
their forms coldly burned into his vision like brands of blue flame.
He was not sure who had spoken the chorus of cries–
human priestesses or the Great Goddess Herself–
but he knew that hearing it, he had died and lived again.