Sarah Polyakov, the artist, writes: Maia is one of the Seven Sisters in the Pleiades Star Chain. Mysterious and beautiful; she is the Mother Lotus of all wisdom.
Sarah’s art is magical, mystical, and mythological. The inspiration is all three for me. The depth of the characters in each artwork reflects her multi-dimensional persona. I took some time to figure out how to compose poetry, keeping in mind my earlier poetry inspired by her ‘Alcyone’ artwork. You can read the poems of Alcyone in my previous blogs.
Maia is a nurturer and giver of love and wisdom. Her story is inspirational as much as it is interesting. This is a three-part composition based on my readings about the Greek mythology of Maia. There is a Roman version, but I would stay with Greek towing Sarah’s line.
Part 1: The Birth of Hermes ( Maia, the Maiden)
The first part covers the amorous affair of Zeus with Maia, in the secret of the night. As she goes to sleep, she gives birth to Hermes, who grows fast into a man-child on the first day of her birth.
Churning clouds of heaven
For the eldest of the sisters seven
Beyond the devious divine
From whom she had kept away
Shone from the deep ravine
On whom now Zeus’ eyes lay.
Another journey on the amorous path
Slipped out in the darkest night
Lest he faced Hera’s wrath.
When cloud became curtains
Cries of ecstasy did the thunders drown
Intertwined in the deep cushions
Limbs and lips locked
Bolts of passion fired
The God of Thunderbolt
And the first lady Pleiades
Deep inside her womb
Sown the seed of new life.
Quietly as ever, the Good Lord left
Exhausted by ecstasy and wrapped in blankets
The shut-eye closed her world within
A beautiful boy brewed in her womb
Born when she opened her beautiful eyes
‘Mother Maia’, called the baby Hermes
Prodigious growth by that nightfall
Zestful like his father divine
Left her alone in the dark ravine.
Part 2: Cattle for Lyre ( Maia, the Mother)
The second part covers the story of the fast-growing Hermes stealing cattle from his half-brother Apollo, and ending up caught. Apollo and Hermes squabble over the theft, while Zeus and Maia appear on the scene. With Zeus on his side, Apollo is demanding, but Maia interferes and ekes out a compromise. Her role as a mother, taking on the combined strength of Zeus and Apollo is so intuitive.
That God Apollo, the Greek of the all
An early shuteye, just before nightfall
A starless sky and dreamless slumber
So handsome that even blushed the dawn
Noisy morning and panic of the faithful
Woke up Apollo, pretty even his yawn.
News broke that during his slumber
Occupants of the barn, now lesser in number
A few knots away, his men found
The missing cattle were herded around.
Thundered he,’ who stole my cattle?’
Furious Apollo set out for battle.
A man-child was playing a tortoise-shell lyre
‘Return my cattle and don’t earn my ire’
Thundered the Greek Lord in fury
‘I shall condemn you to forever penury’
Melodious music from the lyre;
The lad says -
‘Dare not ask them back, you handsome Sir’
Words spread fast and to Zeus’ ears
In the scene of his sons, he finally appeared
‘Return that to whoever is right’
‘Between my progeny, shall be no fight’.
Maia says, ‘He is just a young boy, not ready for battle’
‘Why can’t he keep some of the cattle?’
‘There is no room for trials or taunts’
A quiet compromise is what Zeus wants
‘I understand son, Apollo, your ire’
‘Can’t you exchange the cattle for his lyre?’
One son ready and another reluctant
A compromise making a conflict redundant.
Part 3: Nurturing Arcas ( Maia, the Midwife)
Zeus’ amorous affairs continue. This time, his paramour, Callisto incurs Hera’s wrath, who curses her to be a bear. The son born out of that affair, ‘Arcas’ is nurtured by Maia, who can relate to Zeus’ escapades and the resultant progeny. Her role in shielding Arcas reflects her elevated status as the nourishing, giving mother, not only for her son but also for others.
Unslept bed and folded sheets satin
The Good Lord, again, has not stayed in
Quiet she was, to avoid discord and damage,
‘Yet another time,’ she flies in a rage.
‘Will it ever be lost — your thirst for lust?’
She rants and raves, the Good Lord shivers,
‘If I can’t hold you — suffer your paramour must’
‘Whore you are, Callisto, Bear you shall transform forever’
Utters Hera, with pounding heart and frothing mouth
‘What a sham here,’ and ‘such a woman uncouth’.
The Good Lord moves on, his life without remorse
Cursed Callisto, her heart broken and name torn,
A seed in her womb, now a progeny in force
With soft hands and closed eyes, a pretty boy is born.
He sniffles and cries, and nobody to care
‘Dear Arcas,’ appears good Maia out of nowhere.
For she understands the Good Lord’s ways
Right from her past maiden days
Nurtures and nourishes, Arcas to life
She is Maia, maiden, mother, and midwife.
The story of Maia, is the ultimate testimony of women who have lived in patriarchal times — I can compare this with the upcoming novella of ‘The Bachelor’s wife’. How two different mythologies, Indian and Greek, can reflect the best qualities of women who do their best to nurture and nourish lives within the tough world of the divine.
Thank you, Sarah for this opportunity.
~Ashok Subramanian ©, 2022