An explanation: At solstice, I often find myself writing about Persephone and Hades. In the original myth, Persephone, innocent goddess of spring and daughter of Demeter, is abducted by Hades, god of the underworld, who has fallen in love with her while watching her pick daffodils. She is taken to his realm where she eats seven pomegranate seeds. Because of this, she is condemned to spending seven months a year with him in the underworld, during which time, her bereaved mother rages and turns the earth to winter. In spring, Persephone rises to be with her mother again, and her mother’s rage and grief relent, giving birth to spring.
When I address myth in my poetry, I often find the love stories hidden beneath the horror. In many of my poems, Persephone loves Hades and spends her springs longing for him, hating the spring, hating the land of the living, wanting nothing more than to be whisked away to live with her beloved in hell again (yes, I know the Greek underworld was different than hell, but I’ve no problem with conflating mythologies), because where he is, heaven is, no matter what the landscape. To me, it speaks to the fact that heaven has nothing to do with gold streets and pearls and everything to do with love, and hell has nothing to do with fire and everything to do with lovelessness. Heaven is the place your beloved lives, even if that place happens to be hell.
This is Persephone’s prayer of yearning. It kept me up all night. I hope she will let me sleep now. I’m tired.
Beloved Hades, when I left you, I didn’t grieve. I became grief. And grief is a mausoleum. It will suffocate you if you live there for too long.
(I’ve almost gained my heavenly home.)
The truth is this pink, petaled thing I’ve become was never spring. I slap lilacs over sackcloth and ash, cover the gashes on my guts with blue butterflies. I smile, unwilling to soil my pain, the only piece of you I have left, with the feckless pity of strangers. I blender my brain, strain stains of sin from my soul, let hope turn to rust in my hands. Sand streams through the hourglass, but never fast enough.
Life fades. I am unafraid.
(My spirit loudly sings.)
I have stayed in this mortal realm too long, I think, sinking in the quicksand of thrown bones and tea leaves. When I dream, the seams of reality unravel. I travel to places you sleep. The underworld. Modern Mexico. Ancient Greece. We speak of the wonders of anatomy, the miracle of flight, the mystery of spontaneous combustion. I wish never to wake.
(The holy ones. Behold they come.)
Daybreak brings the nightmare. My unrebuffed brushes with consciousness are an endless, silent scream. Every minute is a crucifixion. Seconds flay me. I see myself a serene, splendid skeleton, sleeping in tall grass, strands of sunshine woven through the intricacies of my flowering phalanges.
(I hear the sound of wings.)
Still, it seems you will save me. In visions, you ride a boat away from the dock, all you’ve left in the underworld hidden in a sock, and sail up the River Styx, searching for your Persephone.
(Oh, come, angel band.)
The memory of the scar on your chin keeps me alive, just barely. I thrust my hands into hives, never mind the stings, starved for sweet things, bee wings and honey. I wile my hours away by the water, picking white flowers and downing pomegranate seeds by the pound, praying you’ll rebound, ricochet my way, re-waylay me.
(Come and around me stand.)
If you were a hell king, why was the fire in your eyes the only thing that ever made me live? Existence without you is a waking death. You are my life. You are my sanity. You are my breath.
Time unwinds. Behind me, I feel your heat.
(Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home.)