Demeter’s Daughters

There are two ways down and back.
              In one, Persephone,
torn from her mother’s side, eats
the red seeds Hades offers, marries him,
dallies underground. A frantic Demeter
bestows the reawakening only
when Persephone rises, and Queen Above
and Queen Below unite.

              In the other story, the mother
pitches forward, dragging her desires behind her.
Seduced by shadows, she sings her own
seed song in the green-carpeted living room. “I
like it here among the dust and dinners,
see how I like it,” she laughs, seated
on the yellow sofa, listening
to Brahms and jazz, nuzzling a cold beer,
cigarette by cigarette.
My sisters and I dance her rituals.
We take her empty bottles
to the cellar and bring up full ones.

She never tells us what we are doing.
We discover ourselves in the slow
falling off, the cold house we grow into.
We serve but cannot save her
from her descent into dissolution.
I grow angry and dark, my sisters press themselves
deeper into the rock. And when she turns inside
to wait, then give up waiting, then to fear
the coming of death,
she is crowned.

At 16, I wander hell alone.
The plague is everywhere, misplaced passion,
exile. I only feel at home
in strange countries, where I listen to the radio
chanting in languages I cannot understand.

So much I forget.
So much is my flesh and bone.

Years pass.
              Still each spring
surprises. Not yet!
I offer homage,
bent into the darkness
pressed against mirror
of the dirt.

              But there is no more waiting.
From misshapen bulbs, leaves push
through, and seeds, tiny black grit,
put forth green, green.
My childhood ends in an abyss,
and I am called up by a song
that rings of blasphemy to my grief:
The year turned.
The year turns.
She dies. I live.

Published in Cumberland Poetry Review