Metal sieve.

Awaiting news from Psyche.
Wet footprints
on the long dusty slope
up from the dark place.
Figures cluster around her as
she trudges toward us
away from them,
bearing her treasure in a sieve.

Long tendrils, black, slimed, stain
the lap of her white gown,
wetting it so we see
the outlines of her thighs moving,
one then the other.

Coming near,
she turns black blind eyes up to us,
holds up the sieve two-handed, heavy,

Her mute smile — bright, proud, childlike.
No deception there, only she’s
about the value of her gift,
which is no gift at all,

Perhaps she is not blind at all, but
her eyes must adjust from
light to dark as she descends,
from dark to light as
she re-enters our world.
She is not blind, collecting treasure,
nor when she returns, except

Some days we see wet debris
in the sieve,
smelling of rotting fish.
Dripping dross,
like the stinking dense bundles we
flush down the toilet:
substantial-seeming, weighty,
but of no worth.

Then one day we see her sieve is
full of bright images,
familiar objects,
transposed voices,
faces we know in new places,
a house that was ours
changed slightly.
Glass globes we can walk into and
rest in the peace of a shady grove,
ride a gentle surf on bare feet,
body lifted by surges of
warm waves
toward a sandy shore.

Today a monstrosity wriggles
over the sieve edge,
bloody, bloated, pale flesh
that somehow speaks out
loud for all to hear
shameful secrets we had
hidden from ourselves.

As mutely as she came,
Psyche turns to go,
withdraws her gaze.
Did her smile fade?
Or is she grinning?
Are her eyes darkening as
her step quickens?

Hips move easily under the flowing gown
sparkling where the folds billow.
Stepping lightly downslope,
slightly swinging the sieve
dangling from one hand,
sprinkling her gown with filth.
A humming wind lifts her hair and hem,
stirs dust into her footprints.

The nightmare thing
squelches, belches, lies still.
The bright objects in the dust
lose their luster.
In their everyday colors they
imperceptibly fall in on themselves,
now stiffening, now shrinking.

Psyche is a small, white figure
moving away in the drab distance.
Her image, color of the pale hills,
winks out like a star at dawn.

A loveliness persists.
And fear.
Yet loveliness.

Many names

Women who visit the underworld have gone by many names: Psyche, Eurydice, Persephone, Beatrice. They all inform my idea of the unconscious. My Psyche is the one who gives me dreams, only sometimes sharing them with my consciousness.

Jung writes: "We may listen, but we may not meddle" with the unconscious, and defines the difference between the messages from the unconscious and the workings of the collective unconscious, located just above the primitive brain stem, where nothing is available to our consciousness, but might find its way to the unconscious (and thereby infuse a strangeness into our dreams?)

Thus we may only listen, watch, and await news from Psyche.

Illustration courtesy Minneapolis Institute of Art: Foliate Sieve. Ancient Greek. Silver. Late 4th or early 3rd Century BCE. Gift of Ruth Washburn and Julia Crosby Markham in memory of Margaret Crosby.