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Hades and Persephone Correspond in Winter



Hades and Persephone Correspond in Winter
by Carly Racklin

I.

Dearest, dreaded bride—
It may surprise you to learn
that I am not well-versed in excuses, or justifications.
If I know anything about death,
I know its obstinance. Its inevitable quieting of things.
How rare it is, something that cannot be fooled,
or squirmed out of. Of course, many have tried. You
of all creatures know this. You know
that I do not deal in qualms, or explanations.
Either a heart beats or it doesn’t.
A choice is made or it isn’t.
A throat swallows or it retches.
(Never mind the hand around it.
Never mind what it swallows,
whether bitter, or sweet, or deadly.)
Oh, to be so simple.

Let it be known that I only
wanted a companion. Not a prisoner.
But I will admit, I had forgotten how
cage-like these pillars once seemed, upon
my own arrival. You get used to them,
and these shadows that grow in and out
of the stone. The weeping sounds like singing,
if you listen long enough.

Here are some facts of the matter:
If this world had a face, you would be the color
in its cheeks. I alone uprooted you from that field,
and called it love. Here is another fact:
The darkness has a way of misshaping things.
So who can say for certain, what it was—
love, or a silhouette of love, or just another phantom.
It was a choice. That is all I know.
Perhaps I should have asked that Orpheus
to give me his definition, before he fled,
shade-bride at his heels.
Perhaps I should have asked
you.

But when has a god ever needed to ask permission?
I learned that from my brothers. A god wants,
and that is the end of the story. Apologies
do not belong in a god’s mouth, or so I have always thought.
An apology is a hand outstretched to a flame, or a knife,
or another hand. An apology is a torn open fruit,
and I can’t remember, my darling darkling queen,
whose hands have done the tearing.
I can’t remember whose lips first
arranged these things in their order.

I do remember that you ate the fruit,
but I was the one that offered it up.
It, too, I have reaped. It, too, would wither
in my grasp. You are the first warm thing I have held
that has not rotted. Perhaps that counts for something.
Perhaps, like the bulbs that slumber beneath
the white mantle of your mother’s grief,
there is still hope for us.

You have defeated death, my dear, by wedding it.
These lately christened seasons are my proof.
The winter fades, uncurls its shroud-pale fist,
and from its remains the flowers drink,
and bloom. No king or warrior has ever
come close to this, to you.
To killing death with life, with spring.
How strange this is.

I do not deal in beginnings, only ends.
I do not know what it feels like to die, and live again,
as the flowers do. There is so much that I do not know.
There is so much that I must learn. But I will learn.
I will be worthy of your warmth, my bride.
Of this be sure.

Let this note be my first token of affection,
however long overdue. Let this be my first apology,
of the many you deserve.

I await your return as a bird awaits the thaw.
There are eons ahead of us. I intend
to make them happy.

Your husband,
Hades.

II.

Husband—
Nothing about you surprises me anymore.
And you forget
that death still steals the people’s breath, as
it always has. Only now it steals from the earth as well.
I have not killed death, though I am its bride. I have carried
it like a plague with each ascension. It clings to my skin
as my ink to this scroll. And when I return to you,
infernal one, my mother will allot a harvest of sorrows
to all the world. I would rather have withered
in the dark of your home for the whole of eternity, if only
to spare the earth these unending murders
of its beauty. I have no need of your metaphors.
You do not flatter me.

If you are eager for lessons, let this be your first:
I have a name. It is not queen, or bride, or prisoner.
It is Persephone. I will answer to no other. If you
wish for these eons to pass happily, do not hide
behind promises for the future. Our past is unchanging,
this I know. I will not scald myself on the cinders
of what could have been. For this is the truth:
You and I are bound, as roses with their thorns.
And regardless of your fluency, or lack of it,
you have offered me excuses. I will not
swallow them as readily as I did the seeds. No more
will I let my will be soured or devoured
by lies in love’s clothing.

Yet I accept your apology. My heart shall not be sullied
by contempt, for nothing can grow from a polluted field.
I shall not make of my body a flag of surrender, or a banner
of war. I shall only be what I have ever been—alive.
Color in the world’s cheeks, as you say.

Hades, do you know
that some flowers only bloom in darkness?
So let us not mourn the light that we
will not see. I will return, and we will grow
what we can with what we have. So think,
husband, on what we have. I will not spend these
coming eons in silence steeped bitter with memories
of your crimes. You do not have my pardon, but
you have my presence. Or half of it, yet still more
than you deserve.

The summer bleeds away before my eyes, the equinox
soon will harken me back to you. I cannot stand
to celebrate the bloom at my hardy mother’s side, for
I know it will not last. Part of me yearns for the salve
of shadow, of blindness. Does the knowledge of this curse
hurt less if I cannot see it? I have tried to explain this
to my mother. She does not understand. Set against the
sharp obsidian of her hatred, my dithering is stark as snow.
I can no longer be the daughter she remembers, the maiden
in the field. I am afraid of how content I grow with darkness.

I cannot look at the newborn flowers without
also seeing their wilting, inevitable as the sunset.
Yes, they die, and live again. But they die again, and
die and die and die. And I wonder, husband,
is this how you have always felt—
seeing in the living only death? How has it not
yet made you mad with grief?
Oh. Oh, but it has.
Then let us be mad together, and mourn
the horror we have cast on this poor world.

Oh, Hades, Hades, what have we done?
Your deception and my naivety, what a pair
they make. You have made a destroyer of me.

I think it best I save the rest of my words
for our reunion. This ink runs too much like blood,
and I am sick of draining things. Let me be half hollow,
half pure, and unyielding through and through.
I am Demeter’s daughter, after all.

I will see you soon, my husband. And when I do,
I will sow a garden of light in the dark caverns
of the dead. If I cannot stay the hand of winter
from its massacring above, then at least I can
bring a seed of peace to the one who set its
carnage in motion. In time, perhaps,
I could even bring you love.

With hope,
Persephone.

* * *

Born and raised in New Jersey, Carly Racklin is a writer, visual artist, and lover of all things fantastical and visceral. She possesses a BA in English from Arcadia University, and her poetry has previously appeared in journals such as Words Dance, Bird’s Thumb, and Rising Phoenix Press. She is usually thinking about birds.

What advice do you have for other poets?

Write about what haunts you, and read about it too. Trust your voice. Embrace experimentation. Even if no one will ever read it, write it. Know that writing is never wasted. And remember that writing is magic, poetry especially.

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