When Persephone stands on that hill she witnesses a lot of things. Bright red cardinals sift through branches still bare, stark against the white sky. Under her feet crushed wildflowers, early blooms, unwillingly release their scent. Dramatic, like a last breath, when it’s really a first. A woven basket dangles from her pale, polished arm: she’s been picking violets again, she misses them—her throne was cold and crusted over with jewels, but the masons had been instructed to engrave it with flowers. It’s the first thing she does when she’s returned to the hill. Then she’ll bend even deeper, bringing her face with its beautiful sunken eyes close to the grass. Inhaling deeply, Persephone hears her mother approach, light footsteps quickening, strong arms enfolding her until she’s pressed against her breast and once again she’s in darkness.
She doesn’t turn back to look; she’ll be back soon.
She remembers the day clearly. So do I. A young woman in bloom. Steve told me he has never considered Persephone a victim—that she was secretly pleased with her new station in life. Above, she was subject to her mother’s desires; below, to her husband’s. But below, she was a queen, diamond-like, reflecting any small light that passed through the vast dark airlessness. Labyrinthine, with no Minotaur to fear, hers to rule. Above, she instructed her mother on how to make Koliva, the wheat softened and sweetened with honey and sprinkled with almonds, sesame, raisins, pomegranate. Below, she ate nothing, preferring to sympathize with those suffering above. Her mother’s words in her head: now is the winter of our discontent. Whatever, she thought. Steve thinks Persephone let her husband steal her. Persephone herself doesn’t really know how it happened. But she does remember the day clearly.
The basket of violets, a clear blue noon. Not like today, today the light was that eye-piercing bright sunless white. A blue and yellow noon she took for granted, and still kind of takes for granted, even after everything. The cardinals chirped. In her mind, the hill was an English moor, flooded with wild heather and tall moor grass, soft and itchy against her ankles, a grass her mother ruled and one she had never felt. Spots of light broke through her vision. A basket of violets, upended, their scent sharp and powdery as they hit the tufted grass on this arid hilltop, a crack, a hand on her waist, gentle, a split in the earth and a new everything, black and sharp and gloriously untangled. Pomegranate seeds. One two three four five six of them.
Her husband was kind. His cold hands drifted across her flesh, making her almost ashamed of its warmth, and, at times, burning heat. Even at night (though below was a forever night) she learned to temper her reactions, the frozen queen on a throne of stone flowers. Eyes blinking myopically in the endless shade, she sat as her husband’s equal, a role not many above (in the above above) could claim. I want to believe Steve. I think her choice began as an accident and evolved—now her shade is in the shade, and when above remains below, calling to her, so she is never whole, above or below. Demeter knows this feeling; it is the same as being a mother.
She was tugged down. Past Orpheus, past Euridyce. Her dress torn in the process and replaced quickly, to safeguard her modesty. But this was not the domain of modesty; the dark concealed much, but also worked tirelessly to sweep away false manners and unwanted moderations. The ripe round pomegranate, split to reveal every seed ensconced in its small fleshy shell, so that hundreds of them glistened by firelight, beckoning the tongue. If she didn’t know then, she knows now. I think, perhaps, she didn’t know—but she knew. Dionysian temptations, pomegranate wines, cold hands.
I saw her fall, tried to catch her. But I really do think she jumped.