Persephone Unleashed

Illustrated by Ying Wang

The story of Persephone, the daughter of the earth god Demeter, is a well known Greek myth. She was picking flowers in a field when Hades, the God of the Underworld, saw her. He was instantly overcome with desire and abducted, imprisoned, and raped her. Saddened by the loss of her daughter, Earth fell into a wintery decay. Zeus, the ruler of the gods, went to the Underworld and attempted to persuade Hades to let Persephone go. A compromise was reached. Persephone, having eaten three pomegranate seeds, would return to the Underworld every year for three months. So every year, Persephone is reunited with her mother in Spring and their time together culminates in Summer. But the time for Persephone to depart approaches and saddens Demeter, sinking Earth into Autumn. When Persephone is gone, the Earth falls into Winter and Demeter only allows the Earth to become fertile again when her daughter is returned.

Not much of Persephone herself is known, and what we do know comes from male Greek authors. Her story is an allegory of a violent sexual awakening all too commonly forced on women. It’s the loss of innocence, and the bitter cycle of reproduction in patriarchal societies that conflate love, fertility, and romance with coercion and subjugation. As women, we are forced to endure humiliation and abuse while gracefully dancing to the tune of our oppressors. If we misstep, the consequences can be deadly. We are the false, the not-quite human, the wo-man.

Persephone is therefore an ambiguous god embodying darkness and light, winter and spring, innocence and violence. This anthology explores the violence physically, psychologically, and socially inflected upon women; and everything that comes along with it. Through Persephone, these poems address rape, murder, repressed rage, men as monstrosities, and other explicit topics. Through her voice, women who’ve had to keep their mouths shut can finally open them. This is the feminine unchained and unleashed.

*This anthology includes six short stories, and covers explicit topics such as rape and violence. 

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Selections:

Under the Bed

There is something under my bed,
it makes strange noises at night,
and won’t let me rest my head,
nor allow me peace or respite.

It twists my body strange angles,
my thoughts are shaken dizzy,
every quiet moment it strangles
and keeps my resolution busy.

If I perchance stumble on nerve,
taking a peek despite my dread,
with desolate despair I observe,
I’m the monster under the bed.

I.O.U.

Do you mind if I use your body?
Mine doesn’t fit right, and yours has more space.
It’ll only be for a second.
Here, I’ll give you something for collateral.
In fact, when I’m done, you can keep it.

Ghost

I’m sitting across from my ghost at the table,
sipping a morning coffee while she sulks and glares and pouts.
I try and ignore her as much as I’m able,
but she loudly cries and screams and shouts.

At night she lies next to me, still as a corpse,
while I toss and turn, jerk and kick, in tormented sleep.
If you leave it in the oven too long, a soul warps,
so I wonder, which of us will God keep?