POEM: Visiting Mother

Persephone

does not become a girl again

just because she goes home

to visit mother. She could do that,

if she wanted; she is a goddess,

powerful and wise, revered as well

as feared; she could like Hera

bathe and pronounce herself virgin,

say so and make it so. But no,

she goes back to Demeter’s house

as a woman, a wife, a mother,

her hair put up, her gown kirtled,

her husband’s gifts of jewellery

dangling from wrists and ears,

garnets and gold and ebony

shining on her still-plump breasts.

She will not let her mother forget

that they are equals now; that

every root of every plant on which

Demeter lays her blessing sinks

down into Persephone’s realm;

that the underground streams

and the subtle minerals in the soil

answer to her command, not

her mother’s. Not any more.

When her mother calls her “Kore”,

she does not answer; she has

other names now, Persephone,

Proserpina, the dreaded one.

She walks the spring fields

clothed in violet, crimson, black,

her bare feet pale against

the moist earth, her fair face

glowing like the moon

beneath the shining sun

or in the gentle rain,

and even now, kissed

by the god of the dead,

honored by furies, torn

by rape and childbirth

and healed with a scar,

even now, the flowers

spring up where she walks.