to: Persephone, Springtime
Hell has frozen over.
It still remembers you, in withered gardens and
thick white winds that bite at heels,
in the rage of Styxian currents that went rigid mid-motion.
How are you?
I keep wanting to sleep,
to slough off this insomnia long enough
to sculpt your shape in my heart’s caverned
stone like snow,
but I can’t. My dominion dominates me.
I know this sounds sentimental.
I don’t know how to write love letters.
But you knew that from when we met,
when I hid from the heavy heat of Spring, skulking in shadows,
fearing that sunlight would scar my frosted flesh.
And yet you saw me,
looked through shadow to ice-blue
eyes that never glowed until you gazed on them,
and walked over the brittle glass of grass
frozen beneath my feet.
You were good at writing love letters,
like the yellow flower you held toward me that day.
Why don’t you write?
I know I frightened you.
I remember your soft lips wilting
when the flower turned pale at my touch.
Your astonished eyes when ashy skin reached out of shadow.
How your hand fled open when
a pulseless grip bit at your fingertips.
How you gasped when the perfect flower
shattered against the glistening green of icy ground.
I miss you.
I remember how you stood as if waiting, flesh begging
for my whispering, but my words wouldn’t come.
I didn’t want to steal you,
but centuries of silence had numbed the tundra of my tongue.
My wish then was to undrink the forgetful drops of Lethe
and thaw that chilling void.
Now, cowardice creeps through me.
If I could lick up every ounce of that oblivion,
make the hoary landscape of Hades feel less frigid,
less dark by accepting amnesia to your daylight,
I still feel your fingers trembling against the tightness
of hungered arms enclosing you—
am still flooded by your softness shaking
as glacial embrace broke against you—
still know each crystal of my skin that
splintered in your sun-skyed warmth—
still taste each air-igniting shade of you—
still freeze in that moment when
every pulse of springtime went
still, and I hoped
it was me and not my ice enfolding you.
It was wrong to pull you under,
I hated that you got so thin.
I didn’t want to starve you,
but my hands fouled the thousand foods I tried to bring you,
and this place lacks seasons without you—so nothing grows.
I tried to chisel castles out of ice.
I tried to make a paradise of phantom pageants
too transparent for your eyes to see.
I meant to kiss you, I should have kissed you, but—
would you have hated if I kissed you?
In the sleepless seasons since you left, I have
taught myself to speak again—to stand in sunlight—
in seeking every form of fruit to see if any can survive the frost.
With each day, I hope to find some thick-shelled sweetness
I could place in your hand,
to heal your hunger
and make you happy here.
It’s hard for me. My veins know winter but refuse to numb.
I will never sleep, but you were my Elysium.
Included in this letter, you’ll find seeds:
what few I found in this sugar-blood
fruit strong enough to survive.
They’re bitter, but if I remember sweetness right,
the other taste is sweet.
If you like them, plant them.
If they grow, they could feed you here.
With your warmth they may grow in Hades too.
Will you come back?
If only for a season.
If only for a breath.
I wither in a frozen desert that crawls
across each horizon without you.
Hades, starving for the touch of Spring.
This poem was written in Spring of 2012 as part of a collaborative project with Heather Duncan, who is a fantastic poet, my editor, and one of my favorite people in the world. As soon as I convince her to post her response from Persephone to Hades, I will link to it here. The collaborative piece was published in Warp & Weave’s Spring 2012 edition and won first place prize for fiction and poetry submissions.
Special thanks to Heather Duncan (whose help was absolutely central to this piece) and Harte (who the piece is largely about).