“Six Seeds Later” and “God Complex”

poems by
CHRISTINA ELLSBERG | Consultant + Poet

These poems explore the restlessness and cognitive dissonance inherent to modern life—how you can only enjoy something if you don’t think about it too much, particularly if you don’t allow yourself to ruminate on the growing distance between your moral conclusions and your own practical ethics. The nature of modern capitalism connects every potentially ethical choice to a web of countless unintended consequences. 

For example, ethical vegetarianism starts to feel pointless if you consider that, by shopping at a grocery store that sells meat, your money is still going to meat production. And, either way, your clothes, food, and hygiene products all likely contain by-products of meat production, and your soy and tempeh and quinoa replacements, your coffee, your chocolate, your watercolor sets and pens, shampoos and creams likely contribute to the disenfranchisement or enslavement of populations who are otherwise excluded from any benefits of the global economy. But does that mean you shouldn’t be an ethical vegetarian? Or does it mean you have to draw whatever line makes you feel comfortable, and try not to think about the rest? 

Photo by Inma Ibáñez

Six Seeds Later

PICKING at a moth half covered in the Spring Breeze 
tar pits of a firm scented candle, Persephone 

thinks of her mother. Singing directions to bees, 
nudging fawns upright; tölting Indian ponies 

underneath the Dogwoods’ blossoming stigmata, 
and purple fountain grass brushing pollen from their hair— 

she dreamt summer in bright blue and terra cotta, 
and she could dream again, she thinks, her Chippendale chair 

scraping away from the Pottery Barn table. 
They used to host parties, but now the faux-antique set 

is piled with white pages and folders and staples 
Hades brought from work. Even with the business in debt, 

he said he would take off a few vacation days, 
and Persephone imagines bringing him back home, 

Corinthian columns shuffling in the malaise, 
fires to two gods and two goddesses in the dry brome, 

sharing her childhood bedroom with Hades. Back then, 
when the chtonic cleft still scarred that field in Nysion, 

she felt wanted. When she returned, finch, dove, and wren 
sang, crocuses bloomed—now, springtime, as a museum 

of former loves, makes her start to miss Demeter. 
She’s something like proud when she considers leaving him, 

but then, a moment later, bears the pain of clear 
sunlight in spring, itching like an ancient phantom limb. 

As fast as tectonic plates shifted and hair grew, 
Persephone relaxed into the rhythm of death. 

Now, recalling Olympus, she feels calm deja vu— 
the scent of the candle: wood smoke, stilt grass, and baby’s breath.


God Complex

WE step onto our back porches, 

catch our old dogs 
beholding the sky, their expressions black and white, 
detailing so complex it appears gray, 

and we realize they 
never mistook us for gods. 

We remember when we thought 

we would need escape plans for quicksand, 
hostage crises, prison culture–the trick 
                                            is to humanize yourself; 

we revive the time we called our teacher “mom,” 
and when she found us curled up sleeping in the coat room, 
and how she couldn’t explain why our parents 
were picking us up early on the day of the tragedy. 

Why not live as though we could have died 

Standing in the shower, 

we cup our hands as though 
receiving the Eucharist, then 
let the water 
splash onto our feet. 

Here at last we settle for 
the deontology of animals. 

If God wound our clocks and stepped away, 
then we must call to Him every hour and be glad.


Visit Christine’s website at mybestfriendchristina.com.