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from the April 2015 issue

The Mother and the Goddess of Night

She has walked and walked
for nine long days.

All of nine days
and nine long nights
have passed by.

Weary of wandering as she is,
the mad woman mutters brokenly,
"Have you seen my daughter?
have you seen her?"
All along the paths she takes
the heavy clouds freeze—a thousand
birds fly past her in scorn
and the wind howls aloud.

No man or woman would help her
nor would the great gods come to her aid.
Wherever she walks, at the touch of her feet
all the plants burn and blacken.

No one spoke up on her behalf,
no eye shed one tear,
no living creature came forward
as witness.

She walks on, mumbling
"My daughter, my daughter."

The earth hardens and freezes
along her path,
fields of corn, their ears ripe and milky
rot from their very roots,
flowers lose their golden pollen and wither,
honey-birds die and fall like dead leaves,
while the tall trees lose themselves
in a profound sleep.

"Wastelands of snow
wastelands of snow
only wastelands of snow
will I grant you all,"
she fumes within,
as she walks on and on.

A snowstorm flings down
a million, million needles.
The earth freezes, water freezes,
light darkens.

On the tenth day, look,
here she comes, Hecate,
heart of the dark,
with the faces of night hours.
She comes from the place where
Time’s cycles meet.

"I heard your daughter scream.
but I haven’t seen her," she says
abruptly, pointing to the south.
Then the goddess of dark nights
and of all things black,
urges her hounds to run ahead,
raises her two torches on high
to light the way, as she hastens,
along with the mother.
Not a god blinks an eye,
all tongues are shocked into silence.

They travel through dense forests
of betrayals, humiliations
and falsehoods,
to find at last, the daughter tasting
sweet-sour pomegranate pearls.
With their own eyes they saw the daughter!

And then, with her, they returned home.

In her boundless joy, the mother
gave to all, with both hands,
three-times ploughed fields
of rich, red earth, and the promise
of never-ending fruitfulness.
And as all living things thrilled
into renewal, a fine rain fell
throughout the hemisphere
ushering in the spring.

© 2013 Aazhiyaal. Translation © 2015 by Lakshmi Holmström. All rights reserved.

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