This story is paired with Chapter IV of Bulfinch’s Mythology. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free.
Persephone, to Demeter
Mom, I’m so sorry.
I didn’t know this was going to happen.
You always tell me not to open the door
for strangers, but this guy said that he knew you.
He had on all these fancy clothes—a big maroon
coat and all kinds of rings and jewels.
He told me that he had grown up with you,
that I looked just like you did when you were my age.
He said that you were such a big rebel, running off
to start your own business, that he was surprised
I hadn’t done something like that. He told me
that he was a big shot modeling agent, that I
was really pretty and he was sure he could get me
a contract. Mom, you never let me do anything—
you don’t like my friends, or my music.
I just wanted to do something on my own,
show you that I’m not a kid.
At first it was really cool.
There’s this awesome night club,
people are always dancing and partying.
I turned down drinks from the punchbowl,
just like you told me to, in case somebody
put something in it. Of course, I’m on a diet
and I don’t want to get fat if I’m going to model,
so I didn’t eat any of the stuff at the banquet.
I just tried a few of these funny looking seeds,
that made me think of the red corn that you grow.
I thought maybe they were from somewhere
in South America. They had this funky, musty
aftertaste, like they had been stored for too long.
Anyway, the guy went all crazy after that.
He must be OCD or something, ‘cause he counted
just how many seeds I ate. He told me I had to pay
him back. I said that I didn’t have any money,
but I could call you and you would pay him back.
He wouldn’t let me near a phone.
Money wasn’t what he wanted anyway.
I really wish I hadn’t answered the door.
Mom, they won’t let me come home.
There’s this black dog snarling at the gates,
and a creepy guy guarding the estate.
He keeps sucking on coins, which is gross.
I asked him to let me out, but he showed me
and his gun.
They’re keeping a lot of people here
who don’t want to stay. Not just girls, either.
All the people who do want to be here
are total emos. They’re always wearing black.
I think they take something so they never sleep.
Last week a lot of new people came in.
One of the new girls was always crying.
Her boyfriend from outside tried to rescue her.
He posed as one of the musicians for the club,
but he didn’t get her out. I snuck this letter
into his guitar case—
I hope you get it.
Mom, I really need you to help me.
It’s so dark and horrible here and he smells
all weird. I don’t want him to keep touching me.
I just want to come home, help you in the bakery,
hang out in the garden listening to Uncle Paul
read his geeky poems. I’m really, really sorry.
Please come get me.
Demeter, to Zeus
My sister may sit, demure, by the ashes,
but you are done dragging mud across my threshold.
Always the women cower, sniffling,
weep while they scrub the bloodstained floors,
catch their work rough fingers folding the lengths of cloth.
After the brief, dissatisfying tumbles,
they are left to manage both ends of children.
feeding and feces, midwife and mourner,
because old men sent their own sons
to be snapped up, meat on the sacred fires.
Still, I am to birth your every need from the swollen soil?
Have you never understood?
I am cruel enough to be a gardener; I cast off the repeating burden.
No longer will selfish heterotrophs subsist on tissue from the living divisions.
Now the stolid cells stop pumping empty photons into easy feasts.
I will not give one drop of chlorophyll—
every morsel tucked away, no more reliable grasses,
not even a brittle, tattered leaf clinging to a winter beech.
Those phaeton flames will feed nothing but the eternity of my rage.
When broken carcasses shudder, unrecognizable
pelts and ichor abandoned on the ice,
when your supplicants wail and beg,
the frozen earth repelling them with radiant cold and bones,
you can answer that women have no sense of duty.
Zeus, to Hades
Jus’ for one fuckin’ day,
I would like to ‘ave a famly that isn’t goddammed crazy.
‘Zif it wehn’t bad enough to ‘ave one brothah
always chasin’ tail an ‘numb as a hake,
plus my wife’s always on my ahss
’bout why we don’t got but the one kid yet,
an’ most all hehr sistahs do have moah.
Not t’ mention how all them kids come buggin’ me
thinkin’ I’m theih fathah, always askin’ f’ stuff.
Now you go and staht shit with owa sistah—
an’ don’ go tellin’ me ya didn’t know
that guhl was ya niece, ‘cuz ya did.
Pickin’ up some pretty little fahm girl, you ahsshole.
You coulda had any skanky old,
skinny bitch, goth faced, meth whoah you wanted
jus’ soons they get that new casino built
upta Pidgin Hill, but noooooo—
not f’ the fuckin’ prince uh’ dahkness.
Yaw gonna hafta marry hehr now, I tell you whot.
Hades, to Persephone
You love me. You love me, I know
you really do, if only you would
think about it. You are mine, I’m
not giving up on us just because
your wacko mother called the police.
What do they know about us? Age
doesn’t make any difference.
I know you didn’t mean to send that
letters full of lies; don’t cry, I forgive you.
She only wants to control you—for what?
So you can work the farm till some hay-
seed knocks you up? So you can weed
and water and raise a few brats until your
looks are gone? Just like your mom?
Remember our snapchats? Those selfies
you sent me? You don’t want your mom
to see those, do you? Don’t worry, I won’t
show anyone. I deserve to be happy too,
stuck working in the basement. Is it too
much to ask you to be nice to me? Don’t
you want to make me happy, Persephone?
Sonja Johanson attended College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor, ME. She currently serves as the training coordinator for the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. She has work appearing in The Albatross, Off the Coast, and the Unrorean, and was a participating writer in the Found Poetry Review’s 2013 Pulitzer Remix Project and 2014 Oulipost Project.