Inspired by Alice Godliman’s poem Pomegranite Seeds
Myth recounts that Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken as his wife to the Underworld. Her furious mother, Demeter, goes to fetch her daughter back, but all who eat the food of Hades are condemned to remain and Persephone has eaten just a little, six pomegranate seeds. Each one condemns her to spend a month of her life beneath the world each year…
The first seed is cool against the heat of his mouth. “Stay a while,” he murmers into the skin beneath my ear. I make vague sounds of agreement and he kisses me deep. I feel the pomegranite slip down my throat. I do not pause, though I know what it means. My hunger is not yet satisfied and I am desperate to possess him. His tongue tastes abrasive like smoke, large and fleshy in my mouth, and something deep inside of me connects with his soul. Perhaps it is the seed, that red jewel, a fleshy, miniature heart already deep within in my belly, or perhaps it is all the wanting in the world, repressed and forbidden, free and reaching. I want this, him, to be queen, a ruler in a kingdom of my own, a loving consort of this edible prince. I want to be worshipped and I want to worship him. No matter what she says, he did not steal me. I came at his beck and call and at the delicate thrust of his skilful fingers.
The second and third seeds, I eat to spite her. Her letter says, ‘Come home Daughter, all is forgiven’, but I cannot forgive her crowing dawn and I want to hide from the truth of my hurt and frustration. I will not face her righteous pity, so I creep down in the dead of night and spite myself to spite her more. Last night’s feast sits cold and congealing, but the pomegranite glistens, fresh and juicy. I spear first one seed, then another, swallowing both in defiance before a board creaks and I see him standing at the door. I try to make myself sick afterwards, but no matter how I retch, the seeds stay down. My stomach settles whilst he pointedly ignores the fuss I make, busying himself with matters of state. Its not that he has ceased his adoration, or that his body turns me cold, but I miss the colour of the sky. I paint my chamber blue and gold, the corridors in midnight and pearl, but no birds sing there, no flowers bloom and I feel cold in ways he cannot warm. I weep for a long time until he comes and holds me close, He tells me that once he too missed the rain, and that I would grow used to it. In time…over centuries.
The fourth seed is an accident. I know, I can already hear you mocking me, for how could such a tiny seed which must be dug and speared just so, accidentally fall between my teeth? I am playing with the demons, refusing their treats as they try to cheer me, I toss small morsals into their mouths and laugh as they catch them with ridiculous tricks, bent over backwards, heads beneath their knees. Without thinking I toss a seed high in the air and as it falls I tip my head back and catch it myself, just so! The demons stop, stunned and silent. I try to laugh it off, but they slink away afraid of me, of what rage might come and catch them with my fury. I cannot explain to them. I cannot explain it to myself, so I sit there, still and silent, until he comes to find me hours later and I force myself to pretend that I have been there but a moment.
When my mother comes to bring me home she carries with her the sweet smell of soil. She holds me close and we cry together, though for different reasons. My husband stands near, but refuses to look so I cannot see the shadows that shutter his eyes. I have longed to be found, to be fetched, to be home. In the deep folds of her cloak, creeping sunlight warms the air, small insects scuttle about their business and somewhere distant water rushes. She is all of earth and life and I should be thankful, but instead I feel quite sick and have to swallow back the bile burning in my throat. I am grown too unwieldy for her neat kitchen garden. I have found satisfaction in arranging my own affairs, in being heard, my words and thoughts considered fairly. Her words are gone now and her faith is small, but I am helpless in the face of her terrible self pity. I swallow the fifth seed to give myself hope.
The sixth seed, I secrete in my purse, a decision made yet uncertain in my bravery, in my craving to be free. The journey home is long and winding, and I cannot reconcile myself to this fate. As we reach the mouth of the world I place the seed on my tongue and remember the heat, the tang of him, the misery and the fun. I am now the woman who begs mercy for the miserable, who cheers the ferryman with jokes and lights dark corridors with glimmers of hope. I once tempered the blazing heat of the sun with thoughts of ice and snow and tempted the trees to shed their leaves, so that I might sew a cloak; a susserus of russet silk which cools the world as it billows out behind me. I am as much partner to my husband as I am daughter to my mother, and though I cannot thrive in the absence of life, I will not turn my face from the comfort of death. I have never been my mother.
The sixth seed brings balance, it brings me to myself.
Alicia Fitton is a performance poet based in Manchester, UK. She writes about lust, guilt and justified feminist rage. She is also a perfectionist who enjoys playing with swords. Read more at her website http://www.stormcloudkitty.com or follow her on Twitter at @aliciamakes.Her debut poetry pamphlet, So Tightly Wound, is now available via Amazon.