In Murky Waters
Already her pink toes disappear into the small shadowed pond
That serves as a gateway to the underworld. The sun sets
Due west, relentless, as she plunges deep into clouded
Waters, swims strong, and surfaces
In another world. It’s not what you’d expect, dark
Damp rock, stalactites and stalagmites, clusters of bats,
Dangling spiders. Here, dark things coexist with an improbable
Profusion of sunshine: dunes, jungles, mountains, waterfalls,
Fecund green swamps. Anything found in the above-world exists
Below. That first time, Persephone saw only darkness,
The fire-lit throne room, the endless files of dead
Passing through, the grey river Styx and the huge grey swamps
Through which it flows. Hades had to teach her. She opened
Her eyes to find other eyelids underneath. Hades, who spoke at length
About the “veils,” peeled away onion layers of Persephone’s eyes
Until a pale yellow-green light began to suffuse the endless
Night. Layer upon layer he scraped away, until Persephone herself
Began clawing the masks of blindness from her eyes,
Like Dante, tearing off his masks. After months
Of thinning, the sun appeared within rock and beyond rock.
“Ah, sweet sun,” She said to Demeter, one spring evening, pointing
Down through stone into her husband’s chambers. Demeter imagined
Her daughter weak from lack of sustenance, from drinking
Only grenadine for half the year. At first, Persephone swore she would rewrite
Her own myth: escape from Hades and return to the flowering earth.
Now, rewriting again, she sees herself as uniquely privileged, golden
Fish in murky waters, the powerful, winged and shining
Queen of the underworld.
By Mary Stebbins Taitt.
This poem won first place at New Millennium and was published by them.