10:4: “Persephone in Autumn”, by Mary Turzillo

10:4: “Persephone in Autumn”, by Mary Turzillo

Bare willow branches drip with icy rain.
She sees a moonstone bowl of twilight:
dark twigs splinters in clouded crystal,
the world prismed in a pendant rain drop.

Mother warned her not to taste strange fruit
but she’s grown used to her dyspeptic lord.
Who else would she marry, daughter of a goddess?
Love? Her heart’s more virgin than her flesh.

Half obsessed by summer, damp and drowsing half her year,
Persephone cares little for human grievances
of infertility, of day-lilies withering, of pears rotting.
Mother-of-pearl skies are her second home.

She wonders about her father — was it Zeus?
Or a mortal murdered by the great god out of jealousy?
Maybe some cold soul she passes every evening
walking the banks, poisoned by Styx waters.

And what of Dionysos, the son she gave to Zeus?
As in revenge, Hades pursued some mint-breathed nymph,
but had no joy of her, perhaps because he owns
only a few cattle overground, and an island prison camp.

She phones her mother sometimes, hearing desperation
in the older woman’s voice. Warning, warning,
maybe this time he’ll cancel your return.
Maybe this time winter is forever.

Never Give me grandchildren — and now
Persephone feels that tug of the moon less and less
so maybe it’s too late for babies.
Hades loves her beauty but merely wants to own it.

Really, did she expect the father of Death
to be potent and fertile? He would quicken her
with jagged bone bits, congealed blood, steel.
No, better to leave it. Her heart’s still adolescent.

She grows old without growing up.
She watches the clouds, remembers sunburn weather,
pulls her anorak hood up and thinks,
he can’t live forever. She could hasten that.

Mary Turzillo says:

A young woman caught in a Faustian contract with a powerful aging man: what could be a more classic tale? And yes, because she’s accepted his gift (delicious though fleeting, that taste of pomegranate), she cannot leave him. And the seeds, his seeds, bring her no joy of conception. Her mother warned her. Her mother lets her vacation summers in her country gardens. But if you think it’s simple, that Pluto/Hades is ugly and impotent, there’s another side to that. Take a look some time at the Bernini Properpina and Pluto: you can find images on the web. Better still if you are lucky enough to see that masterpiece in person, in the Galleria Borghese in Rome: the King of Hell’s curling axillary hair, the maiden’s helpless tears. Ah, still, even the tenderest of maidens grow up, and grow old.

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