Persephone the Wanderer :: Louise Glück

In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we known of human behavior,

that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
unconscious harm:

we may call this
negative creation.

Persephone’s initial
sojourn in hell continues to be
pawed over by scholars who dispute
the sensations of the virgin:

did she cooperate in her rape,
or was she drugged, violated against her will,
as happens so often now to modern girls.

As is well known, the return of the beloved
does not correct
the loss of the beloved: Persephone

returns home
stained with red juice like
a character in Hawthorne—

I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
”home” to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivable,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
an existential
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?

You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.

Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise

the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.

You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?

White of forgetfulness,
of desecration—

It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says

Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.

She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
of mind?

She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes

she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.

The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.

You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us

that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.

White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—

They say
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth

Asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
As we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read

As an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.

When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs.
about her mother’s
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.

Song of the earth,
song of the mystic vision of eternal life—

My soul
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—

What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?

[From Averno]

3 thoughts on “Persephone the Wanderer :: Louise Glück

  1. Persephone’s Breakthrough

    This is where the idea is born.

    soft green meadows gently disappearing into fall
    sounds of dying, scent of woodfire and candlelight
    no separation between what is becoming
    accept and be revealed

    summer’s wild adventures
    spring was a torrent of clarity, precious rain,
    Earth coarse, ready for fecund pleasure
    Queen of night in daylight’s realm
    obsessed in flowering
    roses and daffodils
    valleys and nubile hills
    all is vanity and laughing vice
    “But, Mother, I’m not a nice girl.
    I’m a creature of the breeze; secure in shadow;
    alive in the cutting edge of the storm.”
    Myth in revision
    standing at the back of the playground
    learning theater, tucking metaphors
    through interstices of sense and dream
    In spring, kicking stones along sandy riverbeds
    reading the classics
    expecting valor, glory, dramatic lines

    Summer deceives
    the stink of rot where flowers bloom
    ancient feuds, retaliations, rage
    tyrannosaurus feeding future waste,
    absorbing a zeitgeist of want, of predation

    within greed swollen seed infectious fear
    search for further truth
    mythology frustrates, curls back on its own ash
    burn with hazy summer wine and dance
    feet connecting dust to sky — but only in designated
    spheres, with designated peers, self-selected inhibitions
    sweat out poison into the ground; now, eat the bounty
    midsummer farce, far from clear, far from sunrise,
    counting out the chimes as if time were treasure
    silly summer madness as if what matters
    is so circumscribed, so predictable

    Early autumn firelight
    reminiscent of witch hunts, ghosts of calvary,
    dire warnings and endless hide and strike
    the game, the funhouse, turns deadly
    sanctuary calls, demanding sacrifice
    the noble phoenix fed on frankenseed
    can not rise

    skies descend, dark mirroring
    smell the woodsmoke, intoxicating, soft and sweet
    masks the taste of bitter bile, secret vomiting
    starving despite harvest’s gay array of treats
    faded, nearly blind, falling in and out of
    shamanic fever, primeval native dancers beyond sight,
    ripple of tribal beat at the periphery
    ecstatic vision dark/light/agony and brilliant breaks
    starbright constellations

    Traversing worlds
    seasons, years, moments of clarity
    no need to travel, to invent boundaries
    dance of the highlands warmth and sustenance
    makes whole

    October 23, 2009

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