for Moira Linehan

First, go to Hell—I mean, seek out the Halls
                of Hades and his consort,
Persephone the Dread. Here’s what you’ll need:
                foodstuffs, a boat with sails,
vessels of water, wine, etc.
                (see libations list below),
a young ram, a black ewe, and—don’t forget—
                a sword. Then conjure a wind

to blow you clear across River Ocean.
                When you see Persephone’s
Grove, draw up your boat and drive your livestock
                inland. Find the spot—it’s marked
by a dark peak of rock—where the River
                of Flaming Fire and the River
of Wailing (you’ll know it) flow together
                into Acheron. There, use

the sword to dig a trench a cubit square
                and sprinkle the libations
around it in this order: milk and honey,
                sweetened wine, water, and white
barley. Call aloud upon the spirits
                of the dead. Next, slit the throats
of the young ram and the black ewe, holding
                their heads down towards Erebus

while you turn your own aside. Let their blood
                fill the trench. Then flay and burn
the bodies while you pray—first to all
                the gods, then to Great Hades
and Wise Persephone. But keep your sword
                bare in your hand as the crowd
of ghosts flutters forward, dying to drink
                the blood. Hold them off until

you spot the one you seek. Let that one drink—
                he will grow more distinct
to your eye and gain the power of speech.
                While all the others gibber,
the shade you love will talk as sensibly
                as any living person
and answer all you ask. But keep this rule
                in mind—you stay on your side

of the trench, the ghost on his. The two realms—
                dead and living—must remain
apart forever, or the whole deal’s off.
                No doubt you’ll want to stretch out
a hand and touch that cherished face, or take
                into your arms the one form
in all the world you weep for night and day—
                But don’t! You’ll grasp only air;

your love will fade like dream erased by day,
                and Grief set its teeth more deeply
in your heart. That’s all I can tell you.
                No one has found instructions
to help the traveler with the hardest part:
                to return to the light and live,
your ship provisioned, until Hades grants
                you leave, at long last, to sail.