Pete Evans visits the underworld

by Madeleine Dale


How to join this mystery cult? That’s easy, child:

sunburn, soaked bones, no cake

unless it’s televised.


Corinth was always full of such boys, burnt

wheat faces, cold slivers of the winter sky

knifed in their orbital sockets       all of them


            dancing down the spring,


on the edge of a volcano. Initiate, steam is


healthy for the pores, and charcoal,

cleansing. Any sin smaller than blood-guilt

            can be washed with water or oil


(the oil

probably carcinogenic;    the amphora

and the black figure glaze, definitely so. Initiate,


bath more in the streams.) 

            Foraging for fennel and sage

marjoram, poppy-faced, the breaker of bread


stands apart from the goddess of the harvest

because grains should not be cultivated.

Elysium cannot be digested


and so must be forfeited.

The mouth

cries for sustenance; the mouth of the cave


smokes, which is to say, the same.  The goddess

of gluten, transubstantiating

            through the field, offers


wheat cakes

to sate Hades’ beast. Initiate, listen

to your hierophant. He of the false summer


skin said: “I will not take these, even

as the hell-hound chews raw my bones” – (Initiate,

the healthiest choice)




cause cancer, and disbalance the humors.”


Alone, and unarmed, he descended

into the heretic fields,

that no human hand tills.


Purple velvet

most likely damages the immune system;

the lord of the underworld


drips with it, sits on a throne bent with sheaves,

Argive syrup from Athenian hives. Initiate,          

the work


of death and bees                       is one.

The king of bones

and burning fat commands a table like a trireme


sat low against the ground, sheep’s eyes and

unleavened bread, goat’s milk and figs split

like skulls, pink cerebellum thick with cholesterol.


“Is this,” asked he of the sunset-flesh,

“paleo?”. Initiate,

   it was not.


Beware the curse of the usurper’s meddling –

Prometheus lost

his dark liver to god-wrought fire; Initiate,


do not fatten yours

at man’s symposia. But the pomegranate,

glass-seeded like glittering promise, is full


            of antioxidants

so the cynic of the corn field ate                 and found

that there is little oxidizing among the asphodel.


Corinth was full of such men, all barley and bravery.

He is holding down spring, for the half-measure

of the year when


fires are hottest and singing with wine. When

stargazer fish

swim to the nets and the curing. Initiate, burn


your last honeyed cake: winter is dissolving as

libation smoke, cane sugar on the tongue. And,


  in our religion there are no such things.


About the author

Madeleine Dale is a Brisbane poet and word enthusiast. She holds a First Class Honours degree and University Medal in Creative Writing, and is currently completing an MPhil at the University of Queensland. Her work can be found in Wildness, Cordite, Voiceworks, Ibis House, and Meanjin, among others. She can traditionally be found eating biscuits in bed.

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