Makaría, my girl, though you’ve heard
Of this myth I’ve recounted before,
You—indulge me again. For at last
Fragile childhood’s constraints. Now hold fast
And let fantasy shift into creed.
You’re Persephone’s daughter; please heed
Every word, I implore. You’ve surpassed
Expectations I set at your birth.
From my dearth
You drew bountiful joy; from disgrace
You forged grace.
And it’s clear that your eyes could induce
To devise an elaborate ruse
That would send you careening unseen
Down to Hades, where I was once queen.
From my dearth, you forged grace mighty Zeus—
Who, three decades ago sent me bound
As a chthonian bride—would aspire
Once, Demeter’s stray heart, all aglow
For the beau
She’d just met, allowed Zeus to sow woe.
He pared back the earth’s crust, laying waste
To her harvest and left me displaced
Underground to acquire. For the beau
Who then claimed me, I burned seven years.
Through her tears,
Fair Demeter cursed Earth and repealed
Vowing Winter would linger ‘til I
To the underworld. Hades complied,
For the innocent girl he’d once craved
Was no more. As I rose, Mother waved
Through her tears. Springtime’s yield bid goodbye
To its seven-year drought. But although
Seemed to flourish again, when detained
Hades’ seed. It entrenched its black song
For so long
In my belly, no matter how wrong,
The abyss still enthralled me. When eight
More years passed, I spit out the innate
Status quo I’d retained for so long,
And descended at twenty to reign
Disavowing my schooling to seek
In the city, I stripped on a stage
What convention had trapped in a cage.
And I deemed each male patron a thrall
On whose worship I’d draw to recall
Hell’s domain—dark’s mystique. To assuage
The lacuna lost innocence spread
In its stead,
I sought lust, ‘til a man who’d paid much
Dared to touch
Me as Zeus had once touched. But his ploy
My esteem served instead to deploy
Comprehension. Mercurial youth
Had to forfeit illusion that truth,
In its stead, dared to touch—to destroy.
While these decades I’ve learned to delight
In the light,
I acknowledge I’ll always endure
For the Hades against which I strain
Lives to reign.
Makaría, I’ll need not explain
When, from underworld’s embers you rise
And return to me, blinking your eyes
In the light—dark’s allure lives to reign.
Originally appeared in Star*Line, Fall 2018
Mindy Watson writes: “‘(Under)worlds Collide,’ which originally appeared in Star*Line’s Fall 2018 issue, constitutes my most ambitious attempt at restructuring a prior creative nonfiction/memoir essay (the initial ‘Underworlds Apart: A Story for Ailie’ piece appeared in Adelaide Magazine’s online March 2017 edition) into poetic form—in this case, an 8-stanza string of linked ovillejos. While the poem follows the original memoir’s metaphorical trajectory and overarching narrative—that is, a mother leverages a well-known Greek myth’s parallels to her own coming of age story to relay a “moral” (of sorts) to her burgeoning young daughter—I wanted the compressed, verse form to read less like a dark bedtime story and more like a literary song… but without losing the original’s intensity. While in hindsight I concede that my chosen form’s line/length constraints hampered my ability to clearly align my real-world characters to their mythological counterparts (a far easier feat via prose), I believe the form’s stipulation that each terminal ovillejo line contain a convergence of previously distinct phrases conferred a sense of interconnectedness between one elapsed past and another possible future that no mere prose ever could. I applaud George Simmers for penning ‘Strip,’ which made me remember my prior manifesto, and Robin for posting it.”
Mindy Watson is a formal verse poet and federal writer who holds an MA in Nonfiction Writing from Johns Hopkins University. Her poetry has appeared in venues including Snakeskin, Think Journal, the Poetry Porch, Orchards Poetry Journal, Better Than Starbucks, Eastern Structures, the Quarterday Review, and Star*Line. She’s also appeared in Sampson Low’s Potcake Poets: Form in Formless Times chapbook series and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s 2019 Dwarf Stars Anthology. You may read her work at:
Photo: “Persephone’s Rape at Uffizi -II” by Egisto Sani is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.