Naked Shall I Return To It
You have to lay these things down like Ishtar before the first gate:
the edged weapons, the mailed fist,
the mace that has no purpose but to smite,
the AKs and ARs, the hydrogen bomb and the switchblade.
That is the easy part. Easy is the descent,
some fool said. Easy to lay yourself bare,
naked, shorn of glory—
helpless and so terribly flesh.
At the next gate you must divest yourself of cutting words,
of argument and eloquence and defiance. Your words
must be a head nodded or shaken. “Yes, yes. No, no,”
for all others are gone, and have left you nothing to hurt with.
You go on disarming yourself, for each gate exacts its toll.
One wants your pride, another your envy.
You cannot claw your way out, for you have shed your fingernails,
the human teeth with their pathetic echo of fangs.
The last thing to go is your faith. You cannot meet the goddess with it.
No weapon may come into the presence of the queen.
Sacrifice becomes meaningless.
You empty yourself and feel only that—empty.
Where now is the Ishtar who demanded of the gatekeeper:
Let me in or I break down the door. Here you are:
neither goddess nor human, and it is terrible to be allowed in,
but not too terrible to be borne
past knowledge and triumph, past all defenses
into the dead heart of things.
Maya Chhabra is a poet and the author of Stranger on the Home Front and the forthcoming verse novel Chiara in the Dark. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, PodCastle, Daily Science Fiction, and other venues. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife. Visit her online at Maya Reads Books and on Twitter as @mayachhabra.