A hundred thousand moons ago,
a great blue ox as tall as the stars
would wander the sleeping expanse of Earth.
Where her hooves would fall, poppies and tall grass
would grow. Life would flourish there in blessed hues
of yellow and green, for this was the love of great Apis,
Bull of Heaven, godmother of spring.
One day in the dredges of winter, just before the season she awoke,
two hunters found her in the splendor of repose. These men
knew nothing of the bounty of her love, her place in the cycle.
They saw meat and horns,
the instruments of power,
and set to work.
In the heavens, great Innana, Mother of All, cried a tempest of tears,
for her precious sow had been slaughtered,
and the men now tore of her flesh.
They could not see beyond the hearth-fires
how the lush and teeming green had fallen funerary mute.
In her sadness and fury, Innana came to the hunters.
The men did not bow at the herald light
upon which she descended.
She told them at once of the sin they had committed,
placing themselves before the order,
before the spring, with this transgression,
but at this the hunter-men laughed,
their molars glimmering with red.
“The cycle begins anew, and the sow will return to the valley.
You will do as you have always done, and we shall do the same!”
Innana’s anger flashed, and with a wave one hunter fell,
the flesh of his frame becoming moss and mud,
his bones both obsidian and clay.
“If you so desire to place yourselves at the beginning,
then so you shall be the end. Know this, man of might,
that though the bounty of this earth shall sate you,
it shall never save you from your fate.”
And so Innana left the cursed valley where great Apis had died.
The lone remaining hunter, thinking of his people and the tale
that he would tell, took the horns of the bull on string across the desert,
the very land the bull had meant to tread.
On his return, some knew at once where the horns
of impossible size had come from, and cursed the hunter
for his crime.
“People, you must listen!” The hunter proclaimed.
“The goddess cursed me
for not loving her in baths of star-light,
and sent this beast to slay me.
With skill and my own divinity,
I rebuked the bull of the heavens!
See how weak she proves herself to be!”
The people were for many days in doubt,
for the night sky refused all questions, the stars
sat dim on the firmament, and only the hunter’s
word remained. Despite their fear of reprisal,
all the challenges of the people were memories
by the first slow coming of winter.
The great hunter soon became the lord of men
and set about remaking the world.
Pillars of stone set his kingdom high above the barren dirt,
and the people ate often and well. All
proclaimed his cunning and his might.
With care, he showed the seers of his people
where his place would be among the stars,
so as to watch over their works
in perpetuity, forever to guide them
at the beginning
of the cycle.
At the beginning, his lips would speak again and again.
But at night, in the many years before his death,
his eyes laid trace of the future, of the reach of his progeny
and the oceans of blood that they would leech.
Past that crimson sea, the yellow smoke and fire,
the eyes of his soul were left
to gaze upon the bleached white bones of the earth,
barren and dry, baring no mark or testament of life.
All cycles repeat, he prayed, in the year of his passing.
This one shall, and so shall I, until one day he watched
water funnel in a spiral, and saw the blackness of space
in the hole where the water fell out.
John Chrostek is a Pushcart-nominated poet, playwright and author who works at Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR. His work has been featured in publications such as Artemis, River Heron Review, and Cathexis Press.