Persephone wore a sporty sundress
on her flight back to the underworld.
The dress was brown and pink and white,
like fresh flesh oxidizing at the edges.
Like the young buck bleeding out
in Hades’ blighted woods, an arrow
through its hip, the wound widening
and deepening around the shaft.
Deeper every day. Deeper until
Persephone was certain it extended
beyond the deer’s corporeal form
and into some lightless hereafter
where antlers were always shedding,
still stained red from the nutrients
the matted strips of velvet left behind.
Persephone was certain that the hole
had burrowed into her body as well,
that she was sharing the deer’s death.
All of her desires were animal:
food, shelter. She was so hungry
she drank the juice from the tuna can.
She never felt it hit her stomach.
She couldn’t fill the hole and she
couldn’t bribe or threaten it to close.
She hated the hole but it was also
her comfort, the only thing she knew
for certain. The hole made her whole.
When she made love, it was the hole
that filled her. It was impenetrable.
It paralyzed but never numbed.
Most nights she felt stripped of velvet,
her bones so red they screamed.
Persephone’s heart was a boss fight he couldn’t win,
so Hades turned to video games instead.
The rules were simple: forge weapons, buy armor,
open portal, slay dragon. Even death
was simpler, painless and finally attainable,
the closest he’d ever come to completion.
Sometimes while a level loaded, he wondered
what he’d done wrong, why she always shut down
when turned on. He thought perhaps he’d been
too aggressive. This time he let her come to him,
but she never came. He didn’t understand
what game she was playing, or if he was playing too,
or why it kept glitching. He couldn’t bring himself
to raise his enchanted sword against her,
but she wouldn’t attack first. He taunted her,
called her weak, threatened to delete her,
threatened to delete himself. And when he finally
quit the game, she didn’t try to stop him.
Christmas in the Underworld
Hades doesn’t look at Persephone the way he used to, but gods, the sex is amazing. He buys her a lemon tea and says “when we get married”—when! He takes her to Christmastown, all the underworld ablaze with candle lamps and icicle lights. There’s an easy sweetness to being with him, nothing like ripping the pith from pomegranates.
But after the park closes—trees guttered out, buttered rum poured down the drain, sugar plum fairies rubbing salve into their glitter rashes, elves sharing cigarettes in the employee bathroom—
things will harden between them. They’ll fall back into their old patterns, her moods, his silences.
But they’ll cross that bridge after they cross this one—tinsel frittering in gusts of snowflakes, banners rippling with Santa’s endorsement of Coca Cola. Joy to the world, sing all the lights on the water.
Persephone belongs to no one and nowhere, is always winking between worlds, and that was supposed to be her curse. But she knows now the secret to happiness is this always-leaving, this always-coming-back.
Rita Feinstein is a graduate of Oregon State University’s MFA program. Her work has appeared in The Cossack Review, Menacing Hedge, Queen Mob’s Tea House, and Permafrost, among other publications. She tweets about coffee and the writing life at @RitaFeinstein.