You'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
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.
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.
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.
I 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
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....
The 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.