“Verse” by Brigitte Lewis

"Fated" by Madeline Partner / madelinepartner.com

So-and-so says so-and-so cried when she told her the story of the Greek myth: the one where the daughter is abducted and the mother turns everything to winter. Another so-and-so’s so-and-so asks me at dinner what I’ve been doing with my life. He doesn’t mean it how it sounds; still it sounds a lot like the temperatures in my head turning toward winter. I pass the butter when asked and agree that the tuna is cooked well, the sauce is perfect. This is how the years are measured. I smile at so-and-so and wonder when the snow will let up.

So-and-so thinks I’m younger than I am. He or she is far enough away from these furrows on my forehead. Or her or his sight isn’t what it used to be. I answer so-and-so like this: in the garden of the house where I grew up, a small tree grew next to a gate on a path that led down the hill from the house. Near the roses, past the gingko. When you split into a pomegranate another world opens up, seeds like roe, like planets, garnet beads that stain like blood. I lick the so-and-so from my fingertips.

Persephone was swallowed into the underworld, stolen. Some call it an abduction, some a rape. Some might say she was innocent. There’s always a piece of fruit when we talk about loss; in this case: a pomegranate; in this case: the fruit of the dead. If we just ignore the men in this story (boys will be boys, shrug it aside as locker room talk), know this: Persephone is the daughter of Demeter (who oversaw the harvest and the cycle of life and death). When Persephone was swallowed whole, Demeter let the earth go fallow, turning wholly, and instead, toward searching for her daughter. Winter came in her grief.

Here is the story of the word verse. It holds all of the seasons (except, maybe, for winter) and it is a hard worker. From the Latin versus. A turn of the plow, a furrow. Verse is Demeter once again letting things grow. From above, these fields of corn artichokes strawberries almonds wheat show us that we will live.

When I write the word so-and-so, it means I can’t remember. It means the kids are really not okay. It means to get back from the underworld I need myth as my messenger. When I write the word Persephone it means that I die at least once a year. When I return, I crush pomegranate seeds with a mortar and pestle. I add a thickening agent. When I write the word verse, it means I am trying.



Brigitte Lewis was born in Gold Country destined for speculation. She now writes in the Pacific Northwest and is an editor at Utterance: A Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Entropy, Foglifter, and The Fanzine. She has never seen a ghost, but they haunt her just the same.