THE FAMINE OF LOVE
After his mother forbids him to marry Psyche, Cupid puts down his bow and all living things on earth stop mating.
First the fruit flies fell around the fruit bowl and the air was still,
the figs and apples ripened and then were gone. The end of bees
means the end of plums and roses, the end of rye and amaranth.
Soon, no mice: we noticed their silence after the years of traps
and scratching in the ceilings, no droppings in the flour, no footprints
in the butter. I found an owl dead in a glade. Takes less
time than you might think for horsefeed to look like food
if there is no food. There are our orchards, there are
our fields, empty of hum and buzzing, empty of peaches
and wheat. The male swan left the lake, just flew away,
and his mate made widening circles over town,
honking her grief until we shot her down.
The goats stripped every bush of leaves but bore no kids,
no cats birthed kittens, no kits for the foxes, no goslings,
no grubs, no nymphs, no infants. My son now prefers the empty
woods to the dancing girls—it’s true that they’ve grown bony,
and though I go to watch them they don’t stir me. I’m hungry.
At the town council we address the issue: how long can we survive
on leaves and boiled bark? Two months, if we eat our seed corn
and slaughter our horses. One month if we save some corn,
save some horses to try to plant in the spring. My wife
once rode that horse fifty miles just to see me
for an afternoon. Once she rode over a river in winter,
the ice spackled with rabbit tracks
and filled with unlucky fish, just to marry me.
Once we made love in the garden, under the bean trellis;
in our bed we made a child. I make a list
of her good qualities. I try to find my love for her
in things, wearing the clothes she gave me, reading
notations she left in my books. Re-reading her letters
I think, I’m so hungry I could let you starve.
It’s hard to know yourself anymore
when you can think a thing like that.
Some things might outlast this. Tortoises, maybe.
But look at them: each grooved to fit smoothly with the other,
built to heave those heavy bodies together and lock in.
See how his belly is arched
to cradle her shell.
I keep thinking: I don’t need her.
I keep opening the cupboard to find nothing.
—from Rattle #42, Winter 2013
Jenneva Scholz: “I teach ceramics, which helps me feel connected to the earth, and write poetry, which helps me feel connected to the sky.”