I have a serious ear worm in my head, Kate McGarrigle’s Proserpina as performed by her daughter Martha Wainwright soon after Kate’s death from clear cell sarcoma in 2010 when she was only 63.
The music refuses to leave me and I imagine if I share it here, you might catch some of it too and take it away from me.
I wake up these words, already in my head as if they never left before I fell asleep. I wake to the song, a variation on the life of Persephone, the goddess of spring, and in Roman known as Proserpina, the daughter of Demeter or Ceres depending on your Greek or Latin, the goddess of grain and agriculture, but at one point in the chorus referred to as Hera, Demeter’s sister and the goddess of women, perhaps because it fits into the rhythm better.
The song begins with a plea from mother to daughter:
Proserpina, Proserpina, come home to momma, words that repeat themselves over and over as if there is a mother out there desperately calling to her daughter, Come home to your mother. Come home to momma, now.
In the story Demeter’s grief is so great she brings forth the winter. Her daughter, stuck underground with Proserpina’s husband Pluto (Hades in Greek, and god of the underworld) who wants her to stay with him forever.
The call to come home changes to a tirade, Demeter casting pestilence on the world:
I shall punish the earth
I shall turn down the heat
I shall take away every morsel to eat
I shall turn every field into stone
As I walk crying alone crying for Proserpina,
Proserpina come home to Momma.
Come home to momma now.
And it goes on repeating, the same words the same pain, the angst of loss, the utter grief and you can sense the Martha Wainwright’s grief at losing her mother.
A friend who is suffering heart break put me onto this song, a dear friend and whenever the words repeat in my ears, I think of her sadness and of other losses and I wish I could unleash something of the keening within me for all the losses I’ve endured too but it will not come.
My own grief sits inside me, set aside like so much hardened concrete refusing to budge.
Maybe that’s the lot of writers to stand aside and observe not only the grief of others but their own grief, as though it belongs out there to someone else and they must keep a close eye on it so that it does not slip its moorings and infect them to the point they cannot function.