Six Seeds: A Persephone Remix
it is not a story about spring and winter: it is a story about choice.
1. They say there is a rift in the human soul which was not constructed to belong entirely to life.* Persephone doesn’t know about humans, but a hundred thousand years ago, her mother--the mother--pressed their noses together and said, “I love you.” Her mother pressed their noses together and said, “Don’t ever leave me.” Her mother pressed their noses together and said, “We’re going to be together always.” The baby Persephone looked up at their pressed noses and cried.
2. Her power could boil rivers, if she chose; she didn’t choose.* Demeter flings out five fingers and sunny yellow petals unfurl from careful buds. Persephone sits surrounded by a pen of spider grass, crunching bugs. Her teeth have come in early and sharp. She has chewed her way out of all the beautiful kennels her mother has grown for her, woven out of bark and stem and sunshine. Heliotrope kisses Demeter’s heels as she lifts them and Persephone swallows it down until she’s sick. In a garden that her mother builds with a perfectionist’s eyes and calls Eden, Persephone rests nestled in a bassinet of branches while apples spin like mobiles before her eyes and when the fruit falls, she takes her toddler’s hands and brings it to her mouth.
3. Do you know what swineherds talk about? Swine.* Persephone rips petals off of flowers and sings a song about the end of spring, but the truth that everyone knows is that there is no end of spring. There is no spring. She has never seen the meadow without daisies.* Persephone cannot scatter sunshine the way her mother can, so while Demeter busies herself blending hues on flowers, Persephone sits beneath the beehives and near the spiderwebs. These are her mother’s necessary evils, the leggy, crawly things that make her swineherd’s sisters cry. Snakes shed their skin but Persephone can’t, is always wearing that thin layer of flesh called Daughter. Beside her, a swineherd boy who calls her mother Goddess says, “The kindest way to slaughter ’em is if you blindfold ’em first,” and Persephone presses her hand to her eyes, shaking.
4. “I know you,” the snake says. It has wrapped itself in lazy coils around a mouse. The mouse is alive. “You were the kid with the apple.”
Persephone tilts her head. Her hair is dark, the shadow of the yellow gold that drips over her mother’s shoulders. Earth’s daughter has delicate bones and easily ruptured skin, lips the color of her mother’s darkest geraniums. She has eyes the same hue as the ocean, but she is not beautiful. Her mother works in pieces, not in wholes. Taken apart, Persephone is a masterpiece.
Persephone shrugs. “Maybe,” she agrees. Behind them, her mother is blessing the swineherd. She is calling him my child.
The snake stretches up until they are eye-to-eye. Humans are afraid of snakes. Persephone knows better. “Did you like it?” the snake asks. “The apple? How did it taste?”
“It tasted like an apple,” Persephone says.
But the snake presses, its tongue licking scars onto its lips. “And you?”
“And me what?”
“What do you think of things?”
Persephone startles. No one has ever asked her this. She feels the reply come automatically to her tongue: “I love my mother.”
The snake hisses out a laugh. It slicks up her arms to dangle languidly around her neck, scaly and soft against her skin. “Love is choosing,” the snake says, and she feels its tongue against her ear as it murmurs, “The kingdom of God is within you because you ate it.”*
5. Persephone is having sex in hell. She doesn’t know what winter is, only that she is what causes it.* Hades is not a handsome thing, does not have the softness to him that she has been told to want. He is stitched together in jagged edges and pieces that don’t quite fit, but he feeds his dog the fattiest piece of bacon. He does not let her go any more than her mother had let her leave, but it is a different kind of captivity. Persephone cannot leave because she does not know how, and he will not tell her; she thinks that if she found the way, he would look at her with those hard, dark eyes and say, “Then go.” She can do what she wants, but she must do it all herself.
She sits as far away from him as she can, but it is not out of fear; it is because she likes the way they have to raise their voices to talk to one another. It is because every time he says her name he has to make the choice.
6. She has been wandering in the gardens, all of them gray but still alive, still bruising with something that pulses and reaches and aches in a way that her mother’s perfect orchids never do. Hades carries souls over his shoulder and does not slump under the weight of them. He meets her eyes every time he passes. He does not smile, but she can see herself reflected in his stiff chin. She knows that he is glad of her because she is still here.
Weeping souls call her a sunlit flower and promise that her mother will come. They are not wrong. Persephone has heard the shouting. Persephone has heard Hades’ toneless replies to the demands her mother sends in the form of snow and death: bring my daughter back to me. Hades does not say, “She won’t come back,” he just says, “I won’t bring her.” Demeter does not know the difference. Persephone does.
There is one color in the underworld: red. The pomegranates grow into perfect, bursting circles and explode when they crash to the ground because no one here can eat them. Persephone plucks one with her delicate fingers and rolls it around on her palm. “Don’t eat the food of the dead,” the souls around Hades’ shoulders whisper, for even they know that it will trap her here.
And Persephone grins, says, “Give me the fucking fruit,”* and takes the kingdom of God into her mouth.
*Remixed Cut-ups from:
1. Margaret Atwood, “Quattrocento”
2. Spuffybuds, “Persephone Lied”
3. Louise Gluck, “Persephone the Wanderer”