Persephone’s Rebellion

by Rebecca L. Hodder '11

Before I went walking in the meadow,
we fought over boys, clothes, the way
I wore my hair. I said I hated you
and kicked my way through the tall grasses,
scattering cicadas on both sides.

I heard the car approach, its rumble
thunderous, the sides black, shining with no trace
of my reflection. A cigarette sparked from the window,
a falling star, extinguished on the cracked pavement.
I'd seen the driver around before,
one of the older boys, who made us breathless with
nerves as he walked by, tall, of course,  and dark,
and almost handsome , but too thin - skeletal -
still, the smell of his cologne drew us in - night
and myrrh and old money.

He gave a crooked smile, corners stretching slowly
like a wakening cat. His silent laugh showed teeth as perfect
as the pearl onions you harvested every year.
With a wink, he opened the passenger door,
one pale hand - no, his whole body - inviting
me in. The leather seat stuck to the back of my legs,
and I winced at the pull of skin, and the feeling
that I wasn't cool enough.

His house was huge, the grounds shaded
by willow, hemlock, yew,
that rose like statues from the stony ground.
Somewhere, from out of sight, I heard a stream,
not laughing, like the one behind the school,
but sighing, longing, lonely. When I asked,
he said we'd walk there later, together.

Inside, the cool halls echoed the uncertainty
of my step. Don't be shy, he said, and led
me toward his room - the high white ceiling
yawned above me, as the black comforter drew me down
into nothing - void - his voice like new suede boots,
soft lips against my ear. His hands were cool and certain.

Afterward, he kissed my eyelids, trembling white moths,
and wrapped me in a soft gray blanket. Wondering
what you would think, mother, what lectures
I would have to endure later, I dozed, then woke
to him bringing in a tray. Coffee, black,
and toast, and  fruit I'd never seen before.

He cut the fruit, light glinting off the knife and sending circles
bouncing around the room, flashing from painting
to painting, a portent, a comet blazing doom -
the sort of thing you believed in, ghosts
and visions, horoscopes and tabloid magazines.
The juice ran down his wrist, dropped, left stains like blood
on the plush white carpet. Ignoring them,
he pulled out the seeds, discarded the flesh
on the tray, where it lay looking bloodied, savaged.

I gaped at such wastefulness. He laughed and explained
that only the seeds were good to eat. Try one,
he whispered, sitting on the bed. His eyes were shining,
plum-dark sweetness. I closed my eyes
As he slipped the seed into my mouth.

 Bursting, tart - my eyes flew open. It's alright
if you don't like it, he said. You don't have to
eat more. I grabbed his hand as it pulled away, and sucked
the juices from each long finger. We had nothing
like this at home - all safe and wholesome fruits,
oranges, tomatoes - everything high in vitamins.

I thought of your face falling, crumpled and pale
with anger, mouth puckered like an unripe blackberry,
eyes narrowed into shriveled raisins of disapproval.
Leaning across him, I reached for the seeds.
I ate five more. I thrilled. I craved.
Soft as the skin of a peach, slow as apples ripening,
he kissed the juice from my stained lips,
and still I yearned for more, the taste of freedom.