Posted tagged ‘Hades’

Remedy: Falling and Fighting for Love

March 25, 2010

The Persephone series, “Remedy,” can be read on pp. 35-48 of heart speech this (Atropos Press, 2009, ISBN 9 780982 530948)

There is a torsion in each series of myth-provoked poems, somewhat like Michelangelo’s Prisoners struggling out of stone, reforming themselves even as they remake their origins. In “Remedy”, Persephone turns the tables on Hades, fighting for mastery even as he tears her from the spring she walks upon the grass, the mother who supports her steps.

The myth is one of our most familiar, translated in many cultures to a young man sacrificed in spring, the time of birth and renewal, whose loss brings darkness and famine to those left behind. It is the transition from an eternal beauty and youth to a seasonal rotation, a range of emotions rather than a perpetual bliss. Isn’t this what myth teaches us, to be human rather than divine?

Here, Hades and Persephone, whose voices are scarcely heard in other retellings, form the center of the story. This young, innocent barely woman dragged from one phase of her life into another, suddenly sexualized and violated by a stranger. The older man, seized with desire that overtakes him just as much as the object of his desire is torn from her sense of who she is. Refusing to control desire, desire then violates both the violator and the violated.

Yet here Persephone is not helpless. She fights; she claws; she bruises and bloodies her attacker. And in the contortions of bodies and elements, air to earth, she becomes the victor. She knocks out her opponent, who falls to his unconscious and mortal realm as if concussed, as if dead. What is Hades’ place, who is Hades, if not death and the reminder that anything we imagine can be killed as well as born?

And in the grappling and refusals to let go, to be contained, Persephone and Hades leave desire for something more real. They find compassion for innocence and trauma, for fear and wounds, for what takes them from what they thought of themselves and who they must be. Hades is charmed by Persephone’s first experiences of her hands and mouth and nose in intimate exploration, so different from touching fresh earth, new grass, bright flowers. Persephone crumbles within herself, finding her heart, as she sees the one who stole her now stolen of his senses, now helpless and near dissolution. She learns to love as she learns her own strength, his fragility.

Which becomes grief as she realizes who she is and cannot be as long as her lover is gone from her knowing. Which deepens into bereavement and isolation as she realizes her mother is also lost, is refusing to honor her daughter’s new self and help ease the transition into maturity and pain. The loss of a mother and a lover is only superseded by the loss of a child. And neither of these goddesses, in their compassion for others, have compassion for each other. And so both wander and grieve alone, rage and damage their worlds alone.

Yet Persephone has made her choice. She will mature. It is not a beautiful world for her to rule, this place of death and transition, yet it is the world she is offered. Her spring is not hers; it is a gift of her mother’s, and she cannot come into herself if she does not find a place for herself.