To the Kabeiroi

Hail Kabeiroi, Princes of far-off Phoenicia
and promulgators of holy mysteries that bring
protection and release through wild Korybantic
dancing in circles by torchlight to the accompaniment
of tympana and krotala, ineffable rites that redeem
the souls of the careworn both in this world and the next,
you Masters of the mystic casket in which the hope of the
initiates is stored, like the jar of Pandora, wife of the brother of
Prometheus who stole fire from the Gods for mankind in the hollow
of a fennel staff like a makeshift thyrsos with which the Mainades
make pools of oil, honey and wine flow forth from the Earth
as they revel on the forested slopes of sacred Kithairon
or Parnassos where the oracular tripod of Lord Phoibos is found.
A better treasure did you bring to the land of the war-loving
Tyrsenoi, for once you two brothers had been three, until
gripped by a fit of sudden madness you drew your sharp knives
and butchered the youngest Kabeiros, who still played with dolls
and balls and the noisy rhombos that’s swung overhead to simulate
a thunderstorm or the roar of a bull entombed deep beneath the soil
in a labyrinthine cave like some meandering river that suddenly
bursts forth. When you came back to yourselves and saw the
inexplicable deed you’d done in that state, you laid out
a purple mantle woven by your sister and placed in it
the boy’s penis and favorite toys, which then were stored
in the casket which you fled with across the sea until you came
to hospitable Italy. Though you arrived at midwinter,
the power of the phallus banished the cold and barrenness,
causing the land to erupt in numerous flowers of variegated hue
and countless trees and bushes that bore fruit out of due season,
especially the fig and pomegranate and grapes with curling clusters.
Men hailed you as deliverers from plight and belly-gnawing hunger
and you assuaged your guilt and grief by instituting for your brother
the Bacchic One ceremonies of remembrance which are a joy to take part in,
and so I hail you too, O twin sons of Ba’al Haddad the Thunderer
and Aphrodite Ourania his beautiful wife.