Chloe DeFilippis

 

The Bathing of Persephone

           The creek is as cold as her husband’s hands. Persephone doesn’t flinch. Her mother kneels before her in shallow water. She lifts Persephone’s calf to examine the blackened sole of her daughter’s foot. She sighs. Persephone digs her fingers into the pebbled, muddied earth. She inhales. Air is a ghost inside her, cold and longing. How she missed being alive.

           Persephone giggles—her mother is scrubbing in between her toes with moss. She glances at Persephone, green eyes alight. How gentler her mother is now that the years have passed. Persephone will never forget the first return. The memory of her mother’s anguish as fresh as the burst of those pomegranate seeds. Her mother’s rage not just for her brothers but for Persephone too.

           “What have you done!” she cried at the sight of newly queened Persephone, whose rose blonde hair darkened to deep scarlet upon her husband’s touch. A child then, Persephone yelled, “It’s not my fault!”

           How many winters have turned into springs. Persephone stopped counting long ago. Her return has become routine. She is still cleaned first—her feet soaked and scrubbed until the black ash of the Underworld is erased. Her mother insisted upon the bathing of Persephone; she claimed it bad luck to not. Persephone wondered if her mother thought her presence alone was bad luck too.

           “He’s ruined you!” her mother once shouted while washing Persephone’s hair. She grabbed Persephone by the back of the head and pulled her underwater. Persephone felt the water around her harden, but she could not feel it freeze. She wanted to scream for her mother to stop. Why did she keep forcing Persephone to come home if this is how she felt? “I am a Queen now,” Persephone thought, “but even queens are daughters. Daughters stolen by kings to be made into queens.”

           Today, her mother hums as she unknots her daughter’s poppy red hair. Persephone joins her. The sun breaks from the clouds, pouring light on them. A new season arrives.    

Chloe DeFilippis’ work has appeared in the journal Voices in Italian Americana, in the e-anthology Olive Grrrls, and on the online publication Vending Machine Press. She holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from New Jersey City University. She was the 2015 recipient of the Walter Glospie Academy of American Poets Prize. Currently, Chloe is a Sales Coordinator at Simon & Schuster.

 

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