“Ishtar Ishtar” by Natalie Rudin

I arrive with my entourage of worms at the copy of Ishtar’s Gate

existing on the astral plane –

it shimmers and winks at us discreetly, and the clouds are on their toes around it,

asking us to please be as quiet as possible. And who is there,

trapped in the Gate? the heretic’s livestock wades amongst the lazuli depths,

bathed in oils and anointed for a light spring sacrifice.


my worms are weary, and they crawl into my hair, my hair is lathered

in static from the despair of the inhabitants who wander within this Gate.

Ishtar, Ishtar, you’re already in my legs, leading them

to golden mines, immersing them in salt-filled baths to draw out toxic cells and contemplations.


it’s nightfall at the Gate; the worms itch to tuck themselves into the folds

of the deep earth and the dark earth

but I force them to wait with me to hear instructions –

Ishtar, Ishtar, giver of the milk that now curdles at my feet,

my worms and I need to be put to rest –

Command This…!


Ishtar’s Gate is shrinking and my worms are one big ball of mush.

the rooster crows to tell me to retreat and that I need to try

to wrench out my maternal instinct on another day.

and still it is impossible to muffle Ishtar’s (Ishtar, Ishtar) whispers

and her rippling murmurs mocking my museum texts

that sophisticate the brute Augustus, wearing her pelts on flimsy acrylic skin.