PERSEPHONE | Molly Lazer.
⇒It is with more than a little bit of glee that I categorize this piece as, not only prose poetry, but “erotica,” too. Why erotic?
Read the piece, silly.
It’s about sex. Unless my reading is totally off, and it’s actually about, I don’t know, pomegranates.
Is the pomegranate really the most erotic member of the fruit kingdom, as I posit in today’s title? Perhaps, although we can make all kinds of off-the-wall suppositions with regard to the nature of human existence based on the fact that a lot of fruits out there resemble his or her’s naughty bits.
This piece deserves to be read multiple times. The language is spare and rich at the same time, the images both sharply rendered and layered with meaning. Just consider the opening line:
He cuts. Juice spills over the board, and the pomegranate yields secrets.
There’s a lot going on in these few words: violence, fertility, domination/subjugation, loss of innocence. All sorts of things to do with sex and sexuality.
The story/prose poem contains three active players, in addition to the pomegranate: He, Mother, and You (that’s right, we have some third-to-second POV play here–for such a short work, it’s wonderfully complex.)
Here are three Fun Facts that may help you in your reading of this piece:
- Pomegranates have a longstanding role in ancient cultures, and have served in various folk traditions as a contraceptive and abortifacient, and are also considered an aphrodisiac and romantic symbol in many cultures
- Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter and was abducted by Hades to the underworld. She is associated with fertility, vegetation, and all things chthonic.
- Faerie Food: by pan-cultural consensus, it seems, faerie food has an enchanting/entrapping property that makes it hazardous to us mere mortals.
What I really like about this piece is its hybridization of contemporary/mainstream and mythic/fantastical elements. We cover a lot of terrain in these few lines: Hebrew, Greek, and Celtic myths, a more concrete scene involving the aforementioned pomegranate, a (presumed/suspected) abduction. The author does a masterful job of weaving these disparate threads into a cohesive work.
Even if you Wikipedia the various references as I did to gain a clearer understanding of this piece, I think there is a lot that will be left subjective. Principally, I think, is the question of the You-character’s agency within the story. Is she a victim? A willing participant? A little of both? In this ambiguity we see a powerful comment on sex and its place in our culture: is sex a loving act, a violent struggle, a crime, a work of magic? In this piece, as in contemporary culture, there doesn’t seem to be any clear answer. Perhaps the story’s central character’s innocence was ripped away from her, or perhaps she gave it away willingly. Persephone, after all, did end up becoming the queen of the underworld.