Heather Treseler

Persephone’s Postcard

The dead, they are always descending

   like mustachioed men in Magritte’s

painting, so many bowler hats sailing

   through a pale blue Belgian sky.


Heavy souls—freighted with evil,

   leaden sorrows, or the insomniac

stare of bald regret—crash all night

   against the stone gates of Hades


and stumble, wrecked, along the neon

   strip-mall on the far side of Styx,

a tinsel town where hawkers sell

   the newbies musky perfumes,


condensed from their memories,

   and half-hour holograms of any

one beloved thing: pets or dill pickles,

   a niece or a ball glove, something


to cop one last recessional feel. All

   night, unhappy shades rain on

the earthen roof of the root-cellar

   boudoir I share with my husband


who promised, after snatching me

   from behind, from the white flowers

of Nysa, that I’d grow used to traffic

   of the dead, the continual thump


of souls in the night, above my head,

   like the asphalt slap of a slowly

deflating basketball. He promised,

   wielding his bird-tipped scepter,


to make in me another music in which

   I’d hear myself without my jealous

mother’s cautionary antiphon. In truth,

   though Hades stole me to his lair,


he gave me to my pleasure, enticing me

  to be greedy, to take and take his potent

seed into my store until I glowed dark

   with satisfactions. His lust and coy


protest at my departures came to mark

   time, to cadence more than our seasonal

passions. Between the knock of souls

   above and our tender, mock-Bartok below,


small sprays of earth fell almost nightly

   from our ceiling. Most mornings, I wake

to the taste of summered grass, soil raked

   through my hair, a snail burrowing


his glistening trail into loamy blankets

   where Hades turns, each winter night,

for the press of my lips and obliging limbs

   to receive him, his almost mythic want:


thanatos seeking eros to spring him to life

   again, granting some vital answer

to death’s absolute value of Zed.

   Once Demeter’s obedient daughter,


cosseted to her buxom pride, now wife

   to a god of night who bears it all

away: I tell you, friend, in our green

   unruly nocturnes, often mistaken


for raw shades’ rueful laughter, there’s

   this reminder: Hades husbands

a fertile knowing beauty, but I

   remain death’s regnant queen.



“Persephone’s Postcard” first appeared in The Missouri Review, Spring 2017, Volume 40, No. 1.