From Persephone’s Letters to Demeter

by Nan Fry


You’ve got it all wrong, Mother,

flaunting your grief,

stripping the sycamore

down to a ghost tree.

We revel in skeletons,

find the clean lines

sensuous and economical.

The dead sing us songs

I’m learning to answer.

I’m learning new words

like pomegranate,

a word you can suck on:

pom—thick and round, a bittersweet

bulge, e—the one you slide over

to get to gran—a slow swelling,

cancer or the rose, it doesn’t matter,

then granate—a stone stopping

you hard and cold.

Pomegranate—a word you spit out,

the snick of seeds

against your teeth.


I remember planting, the small furrows.

And the coat of rabbit pelts

you wore. When I was small,

I’d sit beside you and blow into the fur.

I remember dusk

stitching the tulips shut

and throngs of azaleas,

their white throats

open to the moon.

I remember the peach

spattered with red,

furred yellow sun,

and all that juice

let loose on my tongue,

and the pit, its secret

bloody mouth at the center.


I want to learn the language of return.

Re is a reel pulling me back,

the hook in the mouth,

the bud on the rose. Turn

is the worm biting,

smooth swell of the belly,

the detour that brings us home.

I want the ice to melt,

the slow dripping that feels like loss

and is a loosening, a letting go.

The sluggish floes will crack and heave,

the river stretch like a snake in the sun.

Then the floods of summer, the dense

green banks, the sun pumping

juice through the peach, the earth

furred with a pelt of grain.

That dance you taught us—

I’ll learn its language in my body:

lift and flail to beat the grain

from the husk, remembering to save

some to return to you, remembering

that I will return here, a seed.