Persephone
Excerpted from Hell And Its Horizons

Therese Leigh


I.

Her hand engendered the field's grace.
When I think of my childhood,
I remember ever present spring--
a constant explosion of blossoming,
what I thought would be
eternal flutters of bright wings,
a hush of golden petals drifting,
the soft hum in the haze over the meadow
as the bees dipped to the nectar.
I opened myself to the burgeoning land
as she set me loose
among the flowers.
My generous, liberal mother
spread her gifts before me
as if she dumped ripe apples
from an apron overflowing with fecundity,
and I lapped up the riches of her milk at first
and then the honey of her doting kisses,
dwelt in her gaze fulsome on my tender cheeks
as I skipped in the midst of her abundance.

Innocent among the maidens
I plundered the sunlit field,
filled my basket to spilling,
and kept on plucking
wherever bright daisies beckoned,
unsuspecting.
Then his grasping hand
in the center of a delectable thicket
drew me down
so suddenly I did not think
to pull back
as my face plunged into the petals,
and I fell below
into his dark lap.
My screams
for mother and daylight
he did not heed
as I traveled under his cape
to Tartarus,
where my blushes faded,
bleached like death
under the ardor
of his repugnant kisses.
He ripped aside my chemise
and devoured all that was pure.


II.

Bride of the Night.
Queen of the Dead.
The grey tumult swells
engulfs my senses,
till I can no longer remember
color and light,
and I learn decorum,
how to reign among the shades.
I drift in a dream of nepenthe.

Why does this malaise intrigue men--
my misfortune, my prison,
black gown moist with unspeakable liquids,
skin that smells
like sorrow,
eyes grained like dead leaves,
dry, dry
with no tears left to cry.
I am become cold--
yet the men come,
try to steal me away
from the bowels of hell--
Theseus. Pirithous.

They want to fuck
the Queen of the Dead.


III.

The pomegranate seeds...
I ate thereof -- only six --
and yet they chain me to an unholy fate.
How like the gods
to blame me for my hunger.

So I dwell here for half the year.


IV.

The celebrants wait
the return of the maiden,
and I am thrust up out of night and chaos,
clawing suddenly into the dew-kissed
daisies of my recent youth.
White hands of virgins
draw me up,
bathe me in the spring,
they pinch my cheeks--
bring roses to my pallor,
and I am clean again,
virginity restored.
I try to smile
as I approach the celebrants.
My mother rejoices
quickens her step.
I advance slowly
see in her face
how she has made the world
new again for me.

They seem not to know
I pretend to be alive.
No one cares
if the rite is a sham--
it must be conducted perfectly
and in measured time.
Priestess and hierophant
patiently await
their unholy coupling.
Garlanded, I dance with holiday glee,
an automaton,
wind-up doll,
pawn of the gods.
Do they not know my black heart
has not changed its colors.
I am the Queen of the Dead.
My skin flutters in the daylight
like a limp flag
waiting to be borne
to its real country.

Copyright CrossConnect, Inc. 1996

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