Vesta

We are the chosen

in robes of white

my sisters & I

we are chosen

Born of the sacred fire

that burns without cease

pure & smokeless

below the hill of Aventine

where ravens flock on ill wings

we hear them cawing & cawing

always, without cease

We heard the day we were led

before the Great Pontiff

He felt our cheeks, smooth

& our bud breasts, so smooth

& our soft burning lips,

kissed by the gods

& told us, ‘Daughters, you are blessed,

you are mine,’

& chucked us under our blessed chins

Then we were taken below the hill

Mons Aventinus

to watch the fire burning for the first time

Our fire

& our eyes were wide

when the virgins of old

took us by the hands

& stripped us of our worldly garments

They scrubbed us clean, so clean

the soles of our feet were chapped

& my mons veneris was plucked

of the few hairs that grew there

Under the hill

the sun was but a cold blind eye

How we shivered

in our new white skins

virgin twins

watching the ravens circle

above the holy fire

Oh, frightened

& our hair was shorn

it was long then

& fell to the dirt

dark curls, fed to the fire

Another sacrifice

we were anointed, dressed in white

veiled beautiful

& given lamps to never burn out

for we are wise virgins

we are sisters

never to be broken

though days go on

Each day to the sacred spring

whose clear trickle is our tears

Each day, solemnly, we burn

brighter than the fire

We wreathe our grey statue

in roses white

Our mother, whose eyes are cold, blind

She is the fire

& we link our hands & sing

to drown out the ravens cawing

the clarity of wasted spring

the water trickling in our minds

& the echo, we will never die

for we are pledged now

thirty years of servitude

grey & thinking

always thinking of the fire

for we are virgins eternal

for we are chosen

for we were born

for sacred life.

[While primarily devoted to Apollo, Laura Elizabeth Woollett is fascinated by the Dionysian. Earlier this year, she completed her first novel, which was inspired by the myth of Apollo and Daphne. She is currently based in Melbourne, Australia. ]

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