This poem came out of the August 7, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from clare_dragonfly. It has been selected in an audience poll for general funding. This is a retelling of "The Descent of Inanna," a Sumerian myth.
Inanna is a city girl,
all high heels and gold lamé,
kissable lips outlined in scarlet lipstick.
Inanna does power lunches,
with her personal assistant Ninshubur
to schedule the masses of supplicants.
Inanna always wants
what she can't have, and so
when an invitation to her party
she goes in search of her sister.
Erishkegal's address leads
to an underpass on a tollway.
Poorer by several dollars in change,
Inanna growls at the grimy box
and resolves to look further.
She goes down to the subway station
where a stray dog steals her sandwich
and a homeless man offers information
in exchange for her golden shawl.
She lets him have it,
and he shows her the way.
As they descend,
her smartphone stops working.
When she pauses to poke at it,
the slim device slips from her hand
and slides down a grate.
She is lost without it,
but Inanna curses
and continues after her guide
before he can get away.
They climb down into the sewers,
where a rat jumps on Inanna's head.
Screaming, she swats it away,
and her jeweled hairpins go flying.
She does not even try to reclaim them.
As her guide leads her through the muck,
Inanna has to hurry her steps to keep up.
First one and then the other
of her shiny shoes are sucked from her feet,
but she dares not slow down
for fear of losing sight of him.
At last the homeless man
ushers her into an echoing chamber
with a mocking sweep of his hand.
There is Inanna's sister Erishkegal
in her palace of dirty water and reeking clay.
No lapis lazuli adorns the dark walls,
only neon blue graffiti full of strange names
and lewd gestures.
To Inanna's dismay,
the galatur and kurgarra are already here,
their queer bodies draped over the arms of a throne
made from half an abandoned car.
Punk collars glitter at their throats
and their dyed hair stands up in stiff spikes.
"You have one privilege left to surrender,"
says Erishkegal, "before you may petition me."
"What is that?" Inanna asks.
"Why, your fine fair skin," Erishkegal replies.
With a wave of her coal-dark hand,
Erishkegal peels away the fine white skin of her sister
and hangs the skeleton from a hook on the wall.
There is no one to come looking,
no one to question if there has been a crime:
for Ninshubur has gotten a better job offer
and Dumuzi has taken a younger mistress
and the chief of police had a transdaughter once
before the mean girls at school drove her to suicide.
So the skeleton stays on the wall
where it belongs, in plain view
of anyone and everyone who makes the descent.
Erishkegal, Queen of the Great below,
does not believe in closets.