PYTHIA

I left the offering prescribed:
a bone china tea cup,
my mother’s wedding ring.
The Oracle examined the cup,
turned it over to check the porcelain mark,
slipped the ring over a bony knuckle.

Now, she said,  
your question.

How, I asked,
shall I live?

Another one, she said, under her breath,
and sat heavily on the battered chair.
Long she stared into the smoke
while time passed overhead like clouds.

You, she said at last,
her voice low and raw,
transform.  
Gather up the dead.
Dinners, daffodils, the cats,
bags of mulch and barrows of stone:
all you need is there.
Cut your nails and comb your hair.
Hang your washing in the rain.
The only prayer is
the one you don’t understand.
Now go, she said.  And live.
Thanks for the stuff.

I wandered down from the mountain
with my hands in my pockets,
humming a tune from Iolanthe.
When I turned to wave,
she was gone, but her shadow remained,
blue against the rock.

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