Random Poetry Post – Persephone-ish?

I have been writing poetry since early High School, maybe even Middle School. It is one of the reasons that I know I’m a writer – because writing is what I have to do in order to stay sane.   One of the things that I like to do is to rework old poetry. I’m drawn to poems that have potential but lack grace.

I wrote the first draft in college during a semester of a poetry class. I’d been researching the myth of Persephone because of a role I’d played in one of the theater performances. She struck a chord with me.

Here is the poem – written circa 1996-7(?) It never made it beyond a rough-draft stage. I think the perspective is supposed to be Persephone talking to Psyche on her trip to the underworld as one of her tests, and perhaps being as distracted by the girl as the humans were (I am really not sure).

The Girl and her Pomegranate

Nobody knows about you
how I wait for your smile
how I want to smell
your untethered curls.
For you, I could even take rejection.
Tonight we walked together in our minds.
I would like to treat you like the morning flowers
inhaling you
that way.

— Am I unbound? Unleashed? Undone?
Change is everything
I live to swim in disillusions.
Where else would I be, but
playing hide and seek with my Psyche?

You may know the answers
to most of my riddles
but my language is tart, and for the
juice you will spit out half the seed.

Spring has come,
forget me, dear.
Forget me
Let me slip into the
vague history of fleeting smiles
“I once knew this girl…”
shall become my name
for half of eternity.
Never mind, it doesn’t matter
I’m changing my world
so swiftly I’m afraid I will be lost.
And here is nothing –
a creative burst inside hell.

I really don’t know what the heck I was doing in that poem, but I’ve since started new poems with several bits and pieces of this one. The “creative burst inside hell” has at least 2-3 poems about it.  The sensual image in the first stanza leaves my mouth watering, and I’m wondering why I’ve never done anything with it.  I have used the second stanza a lot – and that’s where subsequent drafts come in.

What I find really rich and fascinating about all of this is that I have discovered several drafts that I wrote between this one and the one that ultimately came out of it. This one – scrawled in a journal in October 2004 – holds on to the Persephone voice amidst these images:

(no title)

Am I unbound? Unleashed? Undone?
What ties me to these darkest places
is not the simple pomegranate.

You know me, husband, far better —
enough to take me for granted.
I am tart, and for the juice you will
spit out twice the seed.

Your magic is not what impels me to return each Autumn.
Could the world above really live in continual Spring?
I do not return to let the hardwoods sleep.
Do you think I am so unselfish?

My mother thinks I am mad
each time I begin my descent.
She does not understand how her
Sun burns my skin
and wounds my eyes.

Change is everything.
I live to swim in disillusion,
tethered inexorably as I am
between dark, compelling Hades
and what is expected of me.

Honestly, I think this version is my favorite of all of the poems in this post. I like that it maintained the voice, that it asked the question that perhaps Persephone didn’t really mind being Queen of the Underworld. I think maybe we all need both light and shadow, and this poem explores that. Maybe not enough. What do you think?

Moving along.  In early November 2004, I scribbled an unrelated poem  but used the same imagery (I have written about idea and image composting).  This is also untitled:

I talk too much
I think too much
I feel —
and I can’t say enough.

I’m drifting on
tsunami of emotion.
Flooding everyone around me with
torrents of words.
Treading water in reality,
fearful of the depths.
Will I find a shore? A life line?
Will I drown in disillusion?
Will this prove my undoing.

Undone.
I can scarcely imagine the state
Chaos is for the confines of my skull
Not for this shell everyone sees.
Can I be undone?
Unmade?
Could this be what
finally
sets me free?
And strung, neatly bound
rules and regulations set
logically ahead before I
realized my sleeve already
bears my heart.

Curiouser and curiouser. Are you bored or enthralled? I’m kind of digging this plummet down the rabbit hole with this one.  This question – can I be undone? – was vital to that time in my life. I was going through a metamorphosis at the time but I only realized that I’d confined myself in this life, and wanted to break free.

I found another draft a few weeks later (November 2004), and I am tempted to leave it out for the sake of brevity, but honestly, I think I need to follow this journey through. Here’s the long middle draft:

leashed
strung
straight-laced
rules
straps and cords
neatly bound
wrists
ankles
lists
regulations
set in rows visible
to the horizon, before I realize
my sleeve already bears my heart.
… exposed.
Gazing at my reflection
cupping naked breasts, my own hands look foreign.
wild thoughts make me remember
the wind on my face.

This is surely my undoing.
Can I be undone?
Unmade?
Could this set me free?

I have never whispered
How much I need to see your smile
… I talk too much
Tonight we flew together in our minds
I spend most mights
in dreams making love to you. Yet
I don’t dare remember the waking moments
that I imagine your skin
… I think too much.
I feel this tsunami of emotion
flooding everyone with torrents of words
… I can’t tell you enough
My heart tells me to succumb.
Tethered inexorably, as I am
between these compelling waves
and what is expected of me.
Change is everything.
I live to swim in disillusion
Though I am wary of its depths.
… am I already adrift? Will I find a lifeline?
Are you here with me
on this strange sea?
Or I will drown 
Undone
And you will forget me.
I’ll slip into the vague
history of fleeting smiles.
“I once knew this girl” will be my name
a beat
I gasp again
I’m learning hear the smile in your voice
among other things.

What this was missing in my opinion is an epiphany. The new year in 2005 found me in a very different place, mentally. I was no longer seeking change from without. I didn’t expect someone else to dissolve the ties that bound me to my old life.

I found a different poem on April 26, 2005, when I realized that I am my own undoing.

My life and the poem had shifted seismically:

leashed, strung
ribbons laced straight
rules, straps and cords
neatly bound
wrists, ankles, lists,
regulations set in rows visible all the way to the horizon
before I realize my sleeve already wears my heart
…exposed
I gaze at my reflection

This is surely my undoing.
Can I be undone?
Unmade?
…Could this set me free?
storming emotion flash-floods
torrents of words

my heart tells me to succumb
tethered inexorably as I am
between these compelling waves
and what is expected of me

Change is everything.
I live to swim in disillusion, though I am wary of the depths
…am I already adrift?
Pulled by yet another current
through the sun and wind – then

I realize I am my own undoing.

Unravel everything
and the clasps of the lifejacket strapped
too tight around my chest
Let go of the last life preserver
no longer bobbing for mere survival

I release myself into this sea

Does it matter which direction I choose?
am I a doll in the hands of capricious destiny?
for the first time, I concede
it doesn’t matter
that I don’t know

I release myself.

to swim, float, or perish
amid these salty waves

Unfortunately, I have a need to keep reworking, and I think I edited this one to death.

Most of my early poetry is too succinct, and too hard to understand. My poetry professor in college repeatedly told me that I “asked too much of [my] readers”. It took writing a novel for me to figure out what that meant.

I still like the vibe of this – which I had called the “final” version, but with distance I can tell it’s a bit rough to translate on its own. I doing think it makes much sense without all of the context above.

“Undoing”

This is surely my undoing.

Can I be undone?
Could this set me free?

my heart tells me to succumb
floating between these compelling waves
and what is expected of me

Change is everything.
I live to swim in disillusion, though I am wary of the depths
Am I already adrift?

Pulled by yet another current
through the sun and wind – then

I realize I am my own undoing.

Unravel everything
Let go of the last life preserver
no longer bobbing for survival

I release myself into this sea.

Does it matter which direction I choose?
Am I a doll in the hands of capricious destiny?
For the first time, I concede
it doesn’t matter
that I don’t know

I release myself
amid these salty waves

So, that’s the journey of this poem from 1996 or 1997 through Spring of 2005.

It has gone through some massive shifts. This is one of those defining poems for me. It was a refrain of mine for a while. This was a sanity-saver. I’m drawn to it now for a different reason, and not only do I want to make it a little more approachable, I’d like to tackle it from a totally different angle.

However, after many fits and starts, what I end up with is…. the sequel? (This is its very first draft, so don’t judge my scribbling too harshly!):

Tossed by Destiny
on this glad shore,
I am bound to land and
tides again.
The sea calls to me.

Satin strings cinched tight
sometimes it’s hard to breathe.
I slip a thick rope around my
wrist, my fingers blush at the coarseness–
I choose to be bound here.
I long to be free.

Freedom is another illusion.
Every day we unmake and remake our vows.
I am my own undoing.

If I can unmake myself
and all that I am,
Can I also recreate myself?

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2 thoughts on “Random Poetry Post – Persephone-ish?

  1. Pingback: Putting it Out There | A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

  2. Pingback: No More To-Do Lists…? | A.K. Anderson | Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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