Cathexis Northwest Press
Persephone Goes One Last Time; Poem in which I am not a father
By: Cecil Morris
Persephone Goes One Last Time
The last time our Persephone left us for the other world, the underworld perpetually dark and forever hidden, we knew she was going and not returning, not rising again, re-born once more to our living world of infusions, withdrawals, and daily disappointments. We knew this was not another drug-assisted peek-a-boo or manic madcap escape on flying plastic carpet doomed to crash or one more gamble on fixer-upper boyfriend who will dump her, broke and bruised but home again. We saw life ebb from her skin and leave the waxy pallor of marble and memory, saw her eyes seal themselves for final slumber, her breathing slip to the agonal pant of the baggage-laden airport race to catch the last plane, to lift off to paradise, before the gate slams. We whispered our farewell messages through night and day, a long good bye. We pledged our love undying like only parents can and held cold fingers gone iris purple, that hypoxic shade, and prayed the poppy's compounded nectar, its clear distilled juice would hold cancer's pain at bay, would drop like a black-out curtain between her and her agony, between her and us, would let her rest instead of writhing like a wrestler trying to free herself from our hold, from our attempts to pin her here with us in the land of suffering, grief, and loss.
Poem in which I am not a father
and I walk alone off the trail.
The spruce and fir shift around me.
Lost feathers gather mud after rain
like wounded arrows, the barbs
and interlocking barbules all fouled,
the grace of flight finished, afterlife
begun too much like beforelife.
Light filters through swags of spruce,
through limbs of fir, the dappled duff
swallows my steps in its layers
of needles and lichen cast off.
The earth’s breath in slumber rises
slow, a muffled sigh. Colors turn
to shade in the forest after rain
and spongy duff drinks everything,
the water sounds, the bird noise, footfalls.
Its yielding takes and takes and gives
silence back, something past hearing.
My ashes will sift from sight, will
sink, a breeze falling, stilling, limbs left
unmoved, no prints here, time stripped
and timeless, neither now nor was.
Dark waits between the trunks nearby.
Cecil Morris retired after 37 years of teaching high school English, and now he tries writing himself what he spent so many years teaching others to understand and enjoy. He enjoys ice cream too much and cruciferous vegetables too little. He has had a handful of poems in 2River View, The Cobalt Review, English Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, The Evening Street Review, Talking River Review, and other literary magazines.
Behind the Scenes:
"I wrote 'Persephone Goes One Last Time' a month after our daughter passed away at 39 from breast cancer that had metastasized to the meningeal spaces around her brain. I think in the poem, absolutely autobiographical, I attempted to control my grief by reporting, in detailed imagery, our awareness and experience through the final days of her illness. It also connects to a series of poems about our daughter (cast as Persephone) and her struggle with opioid addiction and allows me to re-count once more the various struggles we witnessed and could not control.
I find I revert often to narrative in my poems, even poems which are entirely fictional or persona pieces, so I tried in 'Poem in which I am not a father' to focus more on imagery. I tried to follow Mary Oliver---to walk in nature, in this case the Oregon Coast Range after an autumn rain, and to allow that experience to guide my ideas and writing."