Persephone Meets Hades
He tossed a smooth coin in his hand. “So, what do you say,” he asked? I turned to face him, Acheron at my back. A black boat that smelled of sulfur and sweat bobbed in the water. A demon waited—shimmering like a labrodorite gem in the sun, an oar heavy in hand —for me to make a decision.
“What’s in it for me,” I said as raised an eyebrow and tossed a braid over my shoulder.
“An entire kingdom my love; you’ll be queen.”
I must admit, he was persuasive. I wanted the obsidian crown that rose to the clouds. I wanted the flowing robes. My twelve year old mind was filled with enchantment, rationalizing this decision. And he said I can have the dogs too!
But with pursed lips and a flounce, I said, “mmmm nope, maybe next year.” I turned on my heels and wandered back to the house.
This stranger never failed; he came every year around the end of August. He would bring me a gift. Bow and kiss my hand. Tell me how I was the fairest of Demeter’s daughters. Then the bargaining would begin.
Every time, my mother gave me the same advice: Stay Away From Him. Don’t get lost in his golden eyes and tilled earth skin. If you do, we will never see you again.
I couldn’t imagine why she felt this way. He was so nice. He treated me like I was his queen.
For three years, our little game of cat and mouse continued. Each year, his gifts got bigger and more extravagant. A trunk overflowing with jewels, satin robes as far as the eye could see; he even brought me a harp and notebook, so that I could write down my songs.
The fourth year came. I sauntered out of the house, ample breasts and curls playing in the wind. I knew today was the day he would be here. I always knew. It was like I could feel his breath on my neck and his arm wrapped around my waist. I shivered, remembering how great it felt to have him near me, how soon I would have him again. Only morning turned to noon and noon turned to dusk. He hadn’t shown up. I stood, from dawn until dusk, feet digging patterns into the banks of the river, arms crossed and my huff becoming more and more of a whine. Until my mother’s voice broke the silence, “Persephone! Get inside! Your dinner will be nothing more than coagulated gravy if you stay out here any longer.”
I silently turned to face her, let the first tear of rejection slide down my face and replied, “I’m not coming in mother, I’m going to find him.”
My mother stood in the doorway, shocked at first. Then she began to run full force towards me, enraged at the thought of me defying her and for what? A man? She couldn’t believe it. As her feet hit the earth, my toes were already in the water. I dove.
My head hit the cold water with a jolt and all of a sudden I felt nothing but sorrow and regret. I felt as though every tear I had ever wept were washing over me, trying to sway me to turn back. But the burn in my heart kept me going. My arms kept slicing the water, my mother’s wails somewhere in the distance, I drew closer to my love, my king.
The first yellow leaf hit the water, as my sorrows turned to lament. My fingertips splashing into the river Cocytus.
Imani Sims is a Seattle native who spun her first performance poem at the age of fourteen. Since then, she has developed an infinitely rippling love for poetry in all of its forms. Imani is the founder of Split Six Productions (splitsix.com) in Seattle, WA. Her book Twisted Oak is available on Requiem Press