Fateful Women: the art of Jacqueline Morreau
The Sacred Pig

"From Persephone's Letters to Demeter"

Persephone by Virginia Lee

Persephone by Virginia Lee 2

1.

Persephone by Virginia LeeYou've got it all wrong, Mother,
flaunting your grief,
stripping the sycamore
down to a ghost tree.
We revel in skeletons,
find the clean lines
sensuous and economical.
The dead sing us songs
I'm learning to answer.

I'm learning new words
like pomegranate,
a word you can suck on:
pom -- thick and round, a bittersweet
bulge, e -- the one you slide over
to get to gran -- a slow swelling,
cancer or the rose, it doesn't matter,
then granate -- a stone stopping
you hard and cold.
Pomegranate -- a word you spit out,
the snick of seeds
against your teeth.

Persephone by Virginia Lee 3

2.

In Light of the Hare's Moon (sculpture) by Virginia LeeI remember planting, the small furrows.
And the coat of rabbit pelts
you wore. When I was small,
I'd sit beside you and blow into the fur.

I remember dusk
stitching the tulips shut
and throngs of azaleas,
their white throats
open to the moon.

I remember the peach
spattered with red,
furred yellow sun,
and all that juice
let loose on my tongue,
and the pit, its secret
bloody mouth at the center.

3.

I want to learn the language of return
Re is a reel pulling me back,
the hook in the mouth,
the bud on the rose. Turn
is the worm biting,
smooth swell of the belly,
the detour that brings us home.

Persephone by Virginia Lee 4


Into the Path's Embrace (sculpture) by Virginia LeeI want the ice to melt,
the slow dripping that feels like loss
and is a loosening, a letting go.
The sluggish floes will crack and heave,
the river stretch like a snake in the sun.
Then the floods of summer, the dense
green banks, the sun pumping
juice through the peach, the earth
furred with a pelt of grain.

That dance you taught us --
I'll learn its language in my body:
lift and flail to beat the grain
from the husk, remembering to save
some to return to you, remembering
that I will return here, a seed.

                                                    - Nan Fry


Persephone by Virginia Lee 5

Persephone by Virginia Lee

For a closer look at the Persephone myth, I recommend Kathi Carlson's essay "Death and Return in the Myth of Demeter and Persephone." A related post of mine is "Little Deaths," written a year ago, looking at seasonal myths of death and re-birth including Persephone's story.

The drawings above are from Persephone: A Journey from Winter to Spring by Sally Pomme Clayton, beautifully illustrated by my friend and neighbor Virginia Lee. The hare and dryad sculptures are also Virginia's, titled "In the Light of the Hare Moon" and "Into the Path's Embrace."  Below, another gorgeous depiction of nature's changes from Virginia's "Inner Seasons" series.

Imbolc has passed now. The Great Wheel is turning, as the dark days of winter slowly draw to their end....

Inner Seasons by Virginia LeeThe poem above is from Relearning the Dark by Nan Fry (Washington Writers' Publishing House, 1991). The poem in the picture captions, by Wendy McVicker, is from The Journal of Mythic Arts (2005). All rights to the poetry and art in this post are reserved by Nan Fry, Wendy McVicker, and Virginia Lee.

Comments

I love Persephone's story, the profundity of it, the deep womanly heart of it. And the art here is wonderful, especially the final picture.

Thank you! What a thing to wake up to - Virginias most delicate beautiful work and the words of this poem...xxx

What a stunning pairing of poem and art - truly magical, and I'm off now to do more book shopping... 😊

Don't miss the second poem, which is also focused on the mother-daughter relationship -- although in a darker, sadder way. (It's one likely to resonate with any of you with difficult mothers.) You'll find it tucked into the picture captions; run your cursor over the images to see them.

Great stuff, words and images both - thank you, Terri. I made an offering to the great collection of Persephone work a few years ago now - here it is, for all its faults: https://coyopa.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/persephone/

Good heavens, Tom, how did I miss this poem of yours? It's absolutely stunning. Might it be time for a collecton of your poems...? The beautiful little edition of "Sometimes a Wild God" is perfectly wonderful, but I want the whole collection!

And yes, I know, you do have rather a lot on your plate right now.... So perhaps just note this request for the future.


Wonderful, wonderful. Rich and thought-provoking, both poems and Virginia's astonishing art.

I have a Persephone poem coming out this year sometime from Mythic Delirium, so can't put it here.

Jane

Ah, thanks, Terri, but there's a way to go before any kind of collection is going to see the light of day! I'm still very much in the 'learning how to do poetry' camp. More chance of some fiction getting out there soon, or re-tellings of folktales... Watch this space ;)

I like the hidden poem and the way it's embedded and linked to the images. How clever! Thank you. :)

Beautiful.

WOW!!! this gorgeous poem and art I hadn't seen before jolted me AWAKE. Thank you so MUCH for sharing this, Terri, and aso for the referral to the excerpt from my book, Life's Daughter/Death's Bride, that you generously invited me to submit some time ago. I'm going to save this to go over [and over!] later in the day and check out all the links as well, but I just want you to know, this took my breath away. Thank you again!! Kathie Carlson

Your poem is fertile, as rich as life and death and the struggle to turn right side out, or in. I've just read it and love it. Thank you!

That IS clever, and lovely. One of the first poems I published as an adult (20 years ago! hold on, there might be kids on my lawn...) was about Persephone in the space between Hades and Demeter, the journey she travels twice a year, and how that space is the only space that belongs just to her.

I should dig that out, and see whether I'm still proud of it. (I still like the idea.)

Hi Terri

I think these pictures literally steal one's breath. They are so evocative and move with drama and passion. I can feel the daughter's anguish underscored by a sense of resolve/resilience and the mother's grief. The poem is simply fantastic, it haunts and houses ,itself, deep in our consciousness, our awareness of being thrown into strange circumstances and isolated from the familiar things/people we love and internalize.
Such beautiful details and phrasing of language, make this poem narrative art at its finest.

Often the myth cycles, such as the one of Demeter and Persephone, work their way consciously or subconsciously into stories that deviate from the original setting, plot and
and circumstances. Yet, their influence runs throughout the thread of text defining
a particular experience, dream or emotion. Such was the case with a poem I wrote nearly
seven years ago. I had been very moved by a woman who talked of the dire conditions in Palestine and how her daughter had lost her faith and became self-exiled into a dark place
of hopelessness, uncertainty and hate. She was in an underworld where her mother's voice kept calling for her to come back ; but she knew her child had to first experience signs of change, to see, hear, taste, smell and feel the evidence, Yet, she also felt her girl
had to listen for the voices of change, the calling to gather, and come home first to witness the resolve before expecting any implementation. In a way, this woman was more than just a mother, she was Demeter, Mother Palestine, grieving for the loss of her child who was deadened by the lack of peace and opportunity in the homeland, the earth where she had grown up and played. I think the beautiful essence of myth is its adaptability and its power to transcend time, culture and faith.

Ghaliya

A woman, secluded in her niqab, writes as evening spreads a rug of palm shadows across the floor. She worries about her daughter, dust on the shutters, and leaves fanning streets where rain barely falls. Her lament stretches beyond the page into the sinking light.

Faith offers nothing
for her, Ghaliya
my only girl --
my youngest child.

she needs to see birds
perched in lemon trees
on this side of the wall,

to hear water pour
through the hose
that has been clogged
and coiled
from lack of use,

to smell the new
lumber and paint
on old premises
given back, promises
pungent with bark and root,

to taste travel
on the tongue
of sand and sea,
the stone cobbles
of Jerusalem,

to hold a rock
for its history
or wisdom,
not a weapon
to riot or condemn.

And most of all,
she needs to come home
when the soft wind cries
through the cliffs

and the moon rises
like a ram's horn
calling everyone here

to pause and pray,
eat and grow
from the seeds of compromise.
_____________________________
Thanks so much for sharing these!
My Best
Wendy

Forgot to mention -- also a stark and beautifully voiced poem by Wendy mcVickers. The relationship between mothers and daughters is always complex; and this one covers the strained, icy one so perfectly, so vividly. One can feel the barren eeriness and need for the child to escape.

"and the moon rises
like a ram's horn
calling everyone here

to pause and pray,
eat and grow
from the seeds of compromise."

This takes my breath away.

Jane

Hi Jane

Thanks so much for the lovely comments! I deeply appreciate them!!

Take care
My Best
Wendy

Yes, just beautiful, Tom. I agree with Terri. Time for a collection.

I love Nan's work, she will be so pleased to see it on your blog and paired so beautifully with the art.--hart

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