Persephone

What shall I tell you–
of time and seasons–
the repeating loops—
war, the gods, of seeds and ceded
lands and women, blooded, growing.

Past is future, future past—
the corn grows, the flowers never last,
but rise again from mud and ash.

On that day the robins trilled,
I watched a heron dip his wings into the wind,
and feather-touch the sea and sand,
I reached for the narcissus–and was pinned
beneath a demon, a monster, my husband, a king.

It’s said I ate and consented,
but what is consent, and what would you do?
I was the victim, a prisoner,
the seeds were red and tart, but sweeter
than his heart.

Hear me,
and don’t talk of wanton spring–
my womb is barren in the cold,
above the ground, I open,
and with my joy, the trees grow buds,
the crocus pops, and dawn-birds sing
as I remove his ring.

When I leave again, as I must,
my mother cries—and so do I.
Our salted tears sway the green
to withered grey,
while I, like dried husk, fall to the ground,
the bargain made, and ever thus,

the fragrant rose fades,
all too soon when placed at tombs—
in the sanctuary of time
past is future, future past,
circling round through many rooms.

Look now to the dead stars’ light,
think long about its glimmer trace,
a shimmer left within your blood,
and in your soul–
recall, I told you all.

For dVerse, where Sarah has asked us to write about Persephone.

69 thoughts on “Persephone

  1. This is beautiful Merril, and a thoughtful examination of the Persephone myth:

    ‘It’s said I ate and consented,
    but what is consent, and what would you do?’

    A question as timely now as it was two millennia ago.

  2. A marvelous retelling of the tale from Persephone’s perspective. Love especially this stanza:
    Hear me,
    and don’t talk of wanton spring–
    my womb is barren in the cold,
    above the ground, I open,
    and with my joy, the trees grow buds,
    the crocus pops, and dawn-birds sing
    as I remove his ring.

    An excellent viewpoint of this tale.

  3. This is wonderful, Merril! I agree with ingrid’s comment. I went down a news media rabbit hole yesterday (one story leading to another) that started with Matt Damon recently saying that he stopped using the word faggot months ago and ended with Minnie Driver’s response a few years ago to his argument that sexual assault is a “spectrum” … so, this poem is so very terribly timely.

    • Thank you so much, Marie!
      I had read about the recent Matt Damon thing, and how his daughter “schooled” him–and I couldn’t believe he didn’t know it’s an offensive world. It’s not like he’s living in a remote monastery.

      • It’s amazing how obtuse some people can be. I want to ask them if they’ve been living under a rock. I do think Damon should stop doing interviews before his daughter totally gives up on him 😉

  4. I am stunned, looking for words here to describe how impacted I was when reading this. WOW. I love how you delved into Persephone’s thoughts and how she is the true victim in the story given a cruel twist of fate. She never did consent as consent implies full knowledge of the situation. But, I’m sure Hades went over the moon looney tunes style in glee when he could still keep her six months of the year. I always felt bad for the daughter and mother in this myth.

    I too love and adore your beautiful imagery of the tale. I really enjoyed this stanza:

    “On that day the robins trilled,
    I watched a heron dip his wings into the wind,
    and feather-touch the sea and sand,
    I reached for the narcissus–and was pinned
    beneath a demon, a monster, my husband, a king.”

    The figurative imagery and rhythm is magnificent and vivid. You know how to dip into the imagery of the endless imagination and paint it on the page like art. That is talent, and this is beautiful.

    • Oh my goodness, Lucy. I am overwhelmed by your kind words and praise. Thank you so much!
      I’ve been seeing lots of egrets and herons lately–so they begged for a mention. That line actually came to me first, and I had to find a way to work it in. 😀

  5. I think perhap this is one of the most moving poems I’ve ever read. It’s beautiful! I bow to your wordmastery.

  6. Such a passionate write, Merril! Woww! ❤️ I especially love; “It’s said I ate and consented, but what is consent, and what would you do? I was the victim, a prisoner,
    the seeds were red and tart, but sweeter than his heart.” You have my heart with this poem 😀

  7. A great poem Merril. I love your first person account of a desperate woman torn between light and darkness… I liked these lines…
    the fragrant rose fades,
    all too soon when placed at tombs—
    in the sanctuary of time

      • I had just posted mine yesterday, and then daughter called, then it was time to make dinner–and after that I was too tired to read comments or anyone else’s. 😀

      • Ha ha! Similar experience to mine except the daughter involved spent a long time on the phone because she’d missed her train and the evening got pushed back over an hour while we put lunch on hold and got ready to go out to the station to pick her up when we would have been eating supper normally.

      • That sounds like a long trip and tiring! This was just a long catch-up phone call with daughter. She and sibling had gone to Miami–a delayed birthday celebration trip, so she was telling me about it. They probably would not have gone if they were planning it now with the rising COVID numbers again, but I’m glad they had fun.

      • Phone calls have a habit of going on far too long. I’m glad they had fun, and I hope they don’t bring anything unpleasant back with them!
        My children have a thing about catching trains and reading train timetables. They either read the timetable wrongly or they don’t give themselves enough time to get to the station but they miss the train as often as they catch it.

      • That’s so funny! Perhaps there’s a course of study in how to read train timetables. My kids tend to get there early–it’s probably like their mom, anxious they won’t make it in time. 😀. They flew to Miami–but separately, and that was a bit of a disaster, but fortunately the trip got much better after that.

      • I’m the same. I don’t understand how they can be so unworried about being late. I start worrying the day before. They don’t even set an alarm to make sure they get up in time!

  8. You personalized her perfectly, and the word-smithing is magnificent. This piece just shines. It lends itself to being read aloud.

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