Persephone sits in the sun,
warming her bones
white from the no-light in Hades,
stiff from sitting on a black throne
for half a year.
She reclines on the grass,
blades scratching her cheeks.
Helios totes the sun around the sky,
burning through clouds
and stinging her eyes.
Beside her, Demeter’s olive skin glows.
She digs up a clump of dirt,
and from it a thin stem rises
the bud bursting into
a violet heliotrope.
Demeter pours dirt into
her daughter’s pale palms
and watches it crumble
through her trembling fingers,
still stained with pomegranate juice.
Judge's Comments -
The poet does as admirable job of incorporating the classical allusions into this poem without being heavy-handed or obvious. The poet does this by painting these two mythological figures -- Demeter and her daughter and queen of the underworld Persephone -- as real people. They are three-dimensional, not idealized figures. Persephone is "stiff from sitting on a black throne / for half a year" and her mother "pours dirt into / her daughter's pale palms." These are earthy (literally!) ways of describing these two deities. Even the mention of Helios, the sun, is grounded in the earth. He "totes" the sun around the sky; nothing too grand about it, it's just a job. And finally, her fingers, still stained with pomegranate juice is a detail that further humanizes and solidifies the figures, and also recalls the myth of her abduction. I think this realistic treatment of the myth is highly effective.
Leah O’Sullivan graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2016 with a B.A. in English and a minor in gender studies. She has had prose and poetry works published in CrossCurrents Literary & Arts Magazine and in Wetlands Magazine, and has received the Esther Wagner Fiction Award for her short story, “The Dying.” She currently works as an administrative intern for Filoli, and she will be attending Mills College to work toward an MFA in Creative Writing Prose in the fall.
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