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Prayer to Persephone
Transcript of Prayer to Persephone
by Rita Dove
One narcissus among the ordinary beautiful
flowers, one unlike all the others! She pulled
,stooped to pull harder—
when, sprung out of the earth
on his glittering terrible
carriage, he claimed his due.
It is finished. No one heard her.
No one! She had strayed from the herd.
(Remember: go straight to school.
This is important, stop fooling around!
Don't answer to strangers. Stick
with your playmates. Keep your eyes down.)
This is how easily the pit
opens. This is how one foot sinks into the ground.
Prayer to Persephone
By. Edna St. Vincent Millay
Be to her, Persephone,
All the things I might not be;
Take her head upon your knee.
She that was so proud and wild,
Flippant, arrogant and free,
She that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Hell,—Persephone,
Take her head upon your knee;
Say to her, “My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here.”
She was thinner, with a mannered gauntness
as she paused just inside the double
glass doors to survey the room, silvery cape billowing dramatically behind her. What’s this,
I thought, lifting a hand until
she nodded and started across the parquet; that’s when I saw she was dressed all in gray,from a kittenish cashmere skirt and cowl
down to the graphite signature of her shoes.
“Sorry I’m late,” she panted, thoughshe wasn’t, sliding into the chair, her cape
tossed off in a shudder of brushed steel.
We kissed. Then I leaned back to peruse my blighted child, this wary aristocratic mole.
“How’s business?” I asked, and hazardeda motherly smile to keep from crying out: Are you content to conduct your life as a cliché and, what’s worse,
an anachronism, the brooding artist’s demimonde?
Near the rue Princesse they had opened a gallery cum souvenir shop which featured fuzzy off-color Monets next to his acrylics, no doubt,
plus bearded African drums and the occasional miniature
gargoyle from Notre Dame the Great Artist had carved at breakfast with a pocket knife.
“Tourists love us. The Parisians, of course”—
she blushed—“are amused, though not withouta certain admiration ...” The Chateaubriand
arrived on a bone-white plate, smug and absolute in its fragrant crust, a black plug steaming like the heart plucked from the chest of a worthy enemy; one touch with her fork sent pink juices streaming.
“Yes, if you wish ...” A delicate rebuff
before the warning: “He dresses all
in black now. Me, he drapes in blues and carmine—and even though I think it’s kinda cute, in company I tend toward more muted shades.”
She paused and had the grace
to drop her eyes. She did look ravishing, spookily insubstantial, a lipstick ghost on tissue, or as if one stood on a fifth-floor terrace
peering through a fringe of rain at Paris’
dreaming chimney pots, each sooty issue wobbling skyward in an ecstatic oracular spiral.
“And he never thinks of food. I wish
I didn’t have to plead with him to eat ....” Fruitand cheese appeared, arrayed on leaf-green dishes.
I stuck with café crème. “This Camembert’s
so ripe,” she joked, “it’s practically grown hair,”mucking a golden glob complete with parsley sprig onto a heel of bread. Nothing seemed to fill her up: She swallowed, sliced into a pear, speared each tear-shaped lavaliere and popped the dripping mess into her pretty mouth. Nowhere the bright tufted fields, weighted
vines and sun poured down out of the south.
“But are you happy?” Fearing, I whispered itquickly. “What? You know, Mother”—
she bit into the starry rose of a fig—
“one really should try the fruit here.”I’ve lost her, I thought, and called for the bill.