Today’s poem was inspired by Sonja Livingston, who was a reader on my thesis committee. During my thesis defense, she suggested I include a poem about the myth of Cronus and Rhea since many of the poems in my manuscript mention mouths or the actions of mouths: speech (or lack thereof), eating, swallowing. She said she was surprised I hadn’t included that particular myth, since “swallowing” plays such a large role in it.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Cronus was the leader of the Titans, the generation of “gods” before the ones we all know (Zeus, Aphrodite, etc.). Cronus heard a prophecy that he would be overthrown by his children, so anytime Rhea, his wife, popped out a baby, he swallowed it to try to ensure that he would never be overthrown. After Rhea gave birth to her sixth child (Zeus), she was really tired of giving birth to children that her husband would then eat, so she hid Zeus and gave Cronus a large stone wrapped in swaddling clothes to eat instead. Later, after Zeus had grown, he gave Cronus some sort of vomit-inducer which made him puke up the other children he had eaten–Demeter, Hestia, Hades, Poseidon, and Hera. They were all, at this point, fully grown, and then they all fought against Cronus and overthrew him.
For the moment, this poem is told from the perspective of Rhea, of watching her newborns being eaten.
“I wrapped them in oilcloths first because he bolted
them down raw—each child screaming out,
flinging their arms toward me, lost in that struggle.”
After writing about twelve lines, the poem halted to a stop. My writing muscle is flabby because I haven’t been writing regularly. Right now, the poem’s lacking that modern context I need it to have so it’s not stuck in the myth and has some freedom to move around. The title is taken from Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers’s poem, “Echo.” She was selected to be one of the Kenyon Review fellows and when I was looking at her work, I was struck by the line, “All sons arrive, their pockets torn.” I usually come up with titles on my own, but Sandy Longhorn writes a lot in her draft processes about taking titles from lines of poetry she reads. When coming up with a title beyond “Rhea” wasn’t working, I went back and combed through some poems I had recently read and stuck on that one. It may very well change when I come back to this poem and make it more modern, but for a draft, it works.
I’m looking forward to a month in Spain when I can start working that writing muscle again! Maybe even try a poem a day?