Lengthy Poem Contest

The Song of Ishtar

by Blessings Oziama

I am the wanderer in the heavens,
that noisy rider across cloudy skies.
I am She of the Unconquered Sun
the Star rising at the break of dawn.
Hear, dear ones, my song in the thunderstorm
behold my serpent coils in the abyss of world’s end
Look on my mask, uncovered, take up life –
caress my body, and be renewed.


Once I went down to that cold land of silence
far from the loving touch of light and moistening.
I thought to myself, “I will grant life
To those who have none. I will make
that place of ever-mourning as joyous
as a divine marriage feast.”
Seven times seven my companions of youth counselled me.
Seven times seven I paid no heed.
Seven times seven my celestial ones dressed me
And seven times seven of myriad beings came with my luminous Self.
Upon the great mountains we hunted at noon
Feasting ourselves we laid down and laughed at sunset.
The nights were to us the time to travel
For it is only fitting to approach that place of death
At fading twilight.


Before the gates of the all-welcoming refuge
(where all enter, but none leave).
I called out to the guardians:
Let me enter (for I have come)
Queen of Earth and Heaven (for I have come)
To greet my dearest, sister-Queen (for I have come)
With no slimy thoughts, no ruminations
of mischief.
Let me now into my sister’s gates
Guide me quietly to her own place.


He who stood by one side, said
What do you mean, O Bright One,
To disturb the quiet of the dead
With your noisy, brutish throng?
All who enter, must enter alone
Therefore great one, if you must come
Send your companions above.
At once I dismissed my people –
Weeping, clinging, embracing –
Nonetheless they went from me.
As I made to enter that realm’s gate,
He of the other side said to me –
Pay the fee, pay the toll,
Even the poorest soul gives her dues
To the divine judges, as she trudges through our gates
Pay according to your exalted status, Shining One
For this is the wish of your sister Allatu (of the dread shadows)
So I took my crown, took my sceptre
And gave to them, saying
Let my sister see, and know of my sincere obedience.
So I took leave of them, speeding across that desert land
The torturous winds blew hot and cold.
Yet I rode them all light leaping
(I have come)
Till I found the Second great gate.
Then I cried: Watchers
Let me go through (I have come). 
Without crown or sceptre (I have come)
I wish to greet my great sister in her domain.


And they said to me:
Pay your dues, Shining Ishtar
Pay your dues, Glory-of-Morning.
In great anger I responded:
Do you presume to cheat me
I, the daughter of the hilly crags?
Have I not gifted Her greatness
With my diadem unequalled.
And my sceptre?


As one, these two chanted:
Seven are the gates in the house of Allatu
At each, the prescribed due is paid by all
bit by bit, measure by measure. 
This is the wish of Allatu, (of the fearsome hall).
Whereupon I gave up my tinkling bracelets and anklets
And sped away, with heavy heart and heavy feet.


At the Third gate, I gave up my Cloak
(“Skin of gold, aura of rosy dawn!”).
At the Fourth gate, I gave up my outer robes
(“Behold the Shining Queen of Sky!”)
At the Fifth gate, I took off my inner robes
(“Glad, may she ever gladden, she of all colours!”)
At the Sixth gate, I gave up my fleeting sandals.
(“What agile breezes! How she springs to bring the rain!”)
At the Seventh gate they seized my girdle unheeding of my tears
(“Who will mould the loins of the maiden this night?”)
Weak and stagnant, as muddy water in a puddle –
on that day, how hateful was my body to me!
Wailing, alone, on the unmarked road
I came in sorrow to the Hall of Judgement.


The mockers chattered in their high seats
As I knelt before them, and then,
I called up the last of my lightening voice: 
Allatu! Ereshkigal! (I am here…)
Sister Soul of shadow! (I am here…)
Is it not you I have sought? Is it not
To you I gave my powers?
Will you not welcome your guest of Heaven?
Nothing answered me, nothing else but
a dark, sneering silence
completed by the laughter of the gallery.
Ishtar, Ishtar, they jeered. Queen on Earth
Lady in Heaven! Yet you lie here
Naked as a corpse before our whims
We will put hooks in you, hang you
On our poles of execution. There you
Will remain, and never, evermore
Ascend the heavens or water the earth.
So we say, so it will be done!
I searched in vain for sister’s figure
Her I found, but she turned from me
Melting into her shadowy home.


For three Light-cycles, I hung limp. 
dead yet undying, grieving yet ungrieved
dead flesh on fertile ground, fetid blood
leaking, in gashes cut by stone and iron
(Mourn, for she is dead! Our lady is dead!)

Yet, from that icy vault that held my flesh 
A water-drop, a breath, a ray descended
On my living, rotten form…
(“..let earth be beaten by torrents of rain..”)
I lolled from side to side, hanging condemned,
Until the Silent one spoke forth (Allatu of the Unbinding) 125
“Live! Grow! You are born anew as I call you.”
and my eyes were opened.


She cradled my broken body in her arms (sweet sister)
Anointed me with oils, prepared my hair
On me she fit my girdle, robes,
jewels, sandals, crown, staff.
Yet I lay, inert as deepest seas,
while my bird soul floated, a burgeoning seed,
light above the swelling pit of water.


We march in your name, our goddess,
blood-sprung, mountain-rooted,
holding dominion over cities and who
is worshipped in ancient forests.
Lady-of-All-Beasts! We salute you, swift one,
most beautiful of all the stars of heaven. 
Salt-sweet, honey-sweet, butter-sweet fount
blooming in rivers and sea, driving
basket waves of goodness to market.
You walker in high places,
brilliant shadow of rulers and deities,
You who ought to lighten our homes –
who dares to hold you captive?
Can the dead be any but those
who lived and bled once before?
Let those usurpers in darkness
be warned and desist!
Else we will fight and push down
Those punitive gates in our floods.
The living will rise up to devour the dead!


And now, come as we call you, sweet one
As our mother, we birth you by invocation
Come forth from the belly of chaos (rise again)
Fill us with your light. As we l be to
Light you to your proper dwelling.
Purest DayStar, leave the cold behind –
Illuminate this space, while we wait
And hope eternally in you.


On a great mountain peak, near the infinite sea
I awoke and bathed in the brilliance of rosegold Dawn
Then and today I cross my world full of wonder, 
Washed clean from the raging rain-flood.
My breezes revive and satisfy all beings
And all may eat at my table day by day.
This world is mine, and it has me forever
Never shall we be parted both above and below. 

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