Celia Gilbert

"Pomegranate IV" by Celia Gilbert


Slowly I count the seeds,



Each in a cell,

ruby women,


some still veiled

behind gray curtains:


ruby women,

asking to be crushed.


As the pomegranate ripens

a crack appears, the seeds fall

one by one by one.


Oh I can never stop looking at pomegranates—

little time bombs.

*      *      *      *

Mother warned—eat nothing    

or I can’t get you back,

the gods will pay or else—

Demeter says so...

*      *      *      *
She lies for days crying, Mother, Mother,

but she is a hostage so


Ok, she doesn't really mind now,

her eyes accustom to the dark.


HE looks better that way.

Her fingers caress the outline

of the skull and finds

the cranial suture,

a seam with allure.


She's so hungry

when the seeds explode,

juice running over her mouth,

she takes her little finger

forces it back in.

*      *      *      *
Wait, this was a trap.

HE wins six months of twelve,


yet, in a way, getting Mother off her back        

feels good.


My uncle Hades, Death, Pluto, Lord of the Underworld,

my uncle, she says.

Ours is a close family.

*      *      *      *

Eurydice warns her:

Hermes dragged me

sucked white into the light,

only Orpheus understood

I didn't want to go back;

he sacrificed himself for me.


Better to stay,

up there they will use you.  

*      *      *      *

I deny it is the idea of the pomegranate

I love, rather its architecture:

this ark of seeds,

this honeycomb of rubies.


Even if I were ignorant of the myth

I would love it.

I would cut it,

spread the two halves, kneel

to contemplate its inner pith white with blushes

of soft pink,

its asymmetrical symmetries.


The seeds nest, sleeping beauties, 

 each one desiring

my love bite,

wanting to expire.

*      *      *      *

Above ground she found

everything as before,

except herself, but,                                      


she slept with this comfort:

there was a kingdom where she belonged.

It waited for her, for her alone.


Matins in the morning and evensong at dusk,
in French called moineaux: little monks, shabby, humble,
more than a bit agitated, twittering prayers
as if time were running out to save the world;
not too proud to forage in the dust,
certain that God looks out
for each and every one
for he takes care of his own.

Lear complains “The lecherous sparrows do couple in my sight."

They rear three broods in a season,
invade other nests,
attack chickadee, thrush, and robin.

“Who killed Cock Robin?”
“ I,” said the sparrow,
I shot him with my little bow and arrow.”

If I were a shaman I would take the sparrow’s cloak,
brown and coca buff,
and whirl and whirl about,
my black eye no bigger than
a pepper seed over my curved beak,
and I would dance the dance of humility and lust,
of friendship and enmity,
I, my chest pounding,
I, in my lowly, kingly robes.


A nun shines in her cell,
a dryad in hers.

When Apollo bestowed her laurels upon the victors
did he mean Daphne had won?

Her river father hears her cries,
and fixes her root and branch, to live by his side.

Running away /failure/success?
Courage of “no?”/ cowardice of “no?”

Daphne’s mother warned her: unless you break you will not bear.

The underside of green is red.
Whoever says Daphne is mute lies—
such sighing and soughing, such shivers,
such lashings of rage.

Her skin opens into webby pores,
runneled bark of old trees.

Two views:
She wanted him, but feared
a fiery consummation.

She didn’t want him
but wanted him forever to want her
because he couldn’t have her.

Does Daphne sleep?
Does the sap, now her blood, rise and fall with light?

She: Understand there is no ”she.”
“She” is dispersed.
Now the thing she feared: disappearance into his blaze
has come about differently: bark, heartwood, pith, sap, leaf.

© 2011 Celia Gilbert


Celia Gilbert is the author of four books of poetry, Queen of Darkness, Viking, Bonfire, Alice James Books, and the most recent, Something to Exchange, BlazeVOX[books], 2009.  An Ark of Sorts, Alice James Books, won a Jane Kenyon Chapbook award.  In 2009 a collection of her work appeared in a Polish-English edition in Warsaw under the imprint Czuły Barbarzyńca.


She is the winner of a Discovery Award from the 92nd St. YM-YWHA, a Consuelo Ford Award, and an Emily Dickinson Prize, both from the Poetry Society of America, and a Pushcart Prize IX.


Her work has appeared among other places in Poetry, The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Southwest Review, and Ploughshares as well as the online journals, Inertia and Memorious.  Her work has been frequently anthologized.


Her art can be viewed at http://celiagilbert.artspan.com

Books by Celia Gilbert