Floaters When I first saw them (I was seventeen) I was afraid—thought they were parasites, worms in my eyes, a presence that would mean blindness—that they would cut me off from light. “It’s myosesopsia,” my doctor said. “Entropic (in the eye itself), but not unusual or anything to dread. You’ll see them. They will not hinder your sight.” Still, every sunset, every page I turn of every book I read and every time I look out at the world I can discern their presence: blurry slugs, cobwebs, gray grime, flotsam, jetsam, jellyfish that spread pollution in the lake inside my head.
The Last Temple Maiden Leaves the Shrine of Artemis in Ephesus, 425 A.D. I swept the sanctuary floor—the last to leave, out from the ancient holy place where Artemis was worshipped in the past, where people came to bow and find her grace. A thousand years, young women served as I had served there—as a temple maiden, vowed to chastity, expected to deny the impulses of worldliness, endowed with grace to live a life in abstinence, to dwell in self-denial, not to know the intimate embrace of marriage, since we served a virgin goddess; to forgo the joy of bearing children. As I went out, leaving that behind, I wondered at the number of girls, who, like me, were sent to serve here through the years: aristocrat and commoner, the wealthy and the poor all consecrated. Rank, status erased when, pledged, they walked together through the door that led to where we lived (the maiden place we called it); and throughout their lives they dwelt, and lived and died held in the temple’s care, serving, denying everything they felt, giving themselves—their souls and bodies—there. But new faith has risen. Artemis cannot be worshiped any longer here. The authorities instruct me to dismiss my faith in her—the faith I held so dear so very long. Today I’m going back— back home, leaving the place I served ten years to be married. My parents made a match. I must obey them. “You should not shed tears,” my mother scolds me as we walk the road that leads down from the temple (empty now). “Don’t be so glum,” she says. “Last night I sewed your wedding dress. I can’t understand how you can be gloomy. You will be a bride! Bad luck to lament on your wedding day!” Still, as I walk along and hear her chide, my tears fall, try to stop them though I may. I leave behind the life I knew—and all the countless maidens who lived out their days as I had lived till now—who heard the call to purity—they’re gone and cannot raise the simple prayers and paeans that arose to Artemis, defender of children, goddess of birth; the love of those who chose a quiet path. They will not sing again.
David W. Landrum’s poetry has appeared widely in journals in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, and in English-language journals in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Nepal, including The Evansville Review, First Things, Measure, Hellas, The Formalist, Windover, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Anglican Theological Review, and many others. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.