A scene from my as-yet untitled epic

A scene from my epic, a retelling of the rape of Persephone, set in Bradenton Florida in the 1920′s. In these verses Persephone has just awakened, held captive in the underworld, waiting for Pluton to reveal his will.

Not fifty seconds after
the shoed hooves of her
abductors horse had landed
in the swamp-grass,
Persephone passed out
of the realm of consciousness.

Whether it was the force
of her fear, her impotent rage,
or the aching betrayal of the man
she called father, she swooned
overwhelmed by her
weakness of heart.

She did not feel Pluton bind her
hands to the pommel, or feel the eyes
of red-capped Charon as he guided
the horses across his vast and stinking
charnel moat. She was not in her body
when her captor carried it up the stairs
of his house, or across that dark threshold.

It was after midnight
when she rose from sleep,
and found herself naked
under yards of raw silk
and etched damask.
Completely alone. Someone
had undressed her. She prayed
that it had not been her Jove.

Her body was spread across
a round canopied bed whose posts
were sliced pillars of rosewood,
carved all over with pairings
of death and the maiden in sexual
poses. Their hips joined together,
the bony, the fleshed, in unlikely
mouth-gaping embrace.

The sight of a skeleton thrusting
his nothingness mere inches
from her eyes made her gasp,
drawing up the coverlets against
her bare breasts. In the flickering
light from the jeweled chandelier
every surface visible glittered.

The walls were swathed
in curtains; taffeta and silk,
done in the colours of midnight
and blood. An insane cocoon,
preparing to give birth.

There was a bookshelf
against one wall, laden
with greasy looking leather-
covered volumes that gave
off a strange scent, like sweat
and fat-molded candles.

The table beside her was lion-
clawed, its surface covered
with rose-petals, ripe pomegranates,
and a clutch of black-eyed poppies,
somehow unwilted, their vase
a trepanned human skull.

Firelight danced in the hollowed
eye-sockets, shadows caught
beneath empty cheekbones
and a card was clenched
between its hard teeth.

The missive was printed on linen;
ivory white, with a rich feel.
She held it fast, with trembling
fingers. The message, handwritten
in strong copperplate hand:

I will come for you by morning-light.
For now, enjoy your room.
There is plenty to eat here
in my kingdom besides
pomegranates, and wine
is available should you wish it.

Pull the cord by the door
(behind the curtains
directly before you)
and someone will serve.

She read a while, in the books
on the shelves. They were heavy,
the bound leather waxy,
and the stories they held
disturbed her young heart.

Like an unquiet corpse
she could not rest,
and spent the time pacing.

The girl slaked her thirst
with the heart of a pomegranate,
and waited for morning
without window or clock.


About Bethany W Pope

Bethany W Pope was named by the Huffington Post as ‘one of the five Expat poets to watch in 2016’. Nicholas Lezard, writing for The Guardian, described her latest collection as 'poetry as salvation'.....'This harrowing collection drawn from a youth spent in an orphanage delights in language as a place of private escape.' Bethany has won many literary awards and published several collections of poetry. Her first novel, Masque, was published by Seren in 2016. Her second novel, Ordinary Lives: The Ballad of John and Mary, was published in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @BethanyWPope

Posted on May 19, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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