red-stained gums - Phoebe Tsao

(not-so-divine comedy, ii)


the sky is as black as ever in the Underworld tonight.

smoke rises above the distant horizon

from the howling depths of Tartarus,

and the wails of the dead forbidden to cross Acheron

echo along the riverbanks of ash and soot,

but Persephone doesn't mind.

she is watching the new souls make their first steps into the Fields,

their bare toes clenching the infertile sand and the bone-white stalks of grass.


she remembers when she first arrived:

nervous, scared, and the most alive she'd ever felt.

she remembers her lover's face:

pale, sharp, scraggly, and so beautiful she could cry.

(she thought the empty shadows of the Underworld could fill her more than the sweet drupes and warm flesh of her mother's world ever could.)


and a child of the fertile earth could not stay

in a land of barren sands and half-souls for long

but the laws of her people have never stopped her.

she ground the bitter-sweet seeds between her teeth

and bared her red-stained gums in a smile when her wing-footed cousin came to retrieve her,

thinking such a delicate flower would come willingly.


she is the queen of the dead, after all, flower or not

and she commands no less than what is the right of her title.

she commands herself.