I am the pomegranate today. I am swollen and flushed, close to bursting, my soft pulp protected only by a thin layer of skin. I wear no armour today. I want to feel the cold air on my flesh even as I feel the heat from within.
I love the stories of Ceres and Persephone. I love the story of the mother who brings darkness and cold down upon the earth as she weeps for her daughter. Love that spring and summer are their reunion. I have been both Ceres and Persephone, but today, I am neither. I am the forbidden fruit. The fleshy fruit.
The teeth that skin my flesh are sharp but their tearing at me is pleasurable. Because I allow myself to be eaten, knowing that I contain within me secrets that can only be accessed in this way. I imagine each of my seeds between those teeth, and I burst forth onto a tongue, drops of knowledge the reward for letting me enter the haven of that mouth.
I make myself vulnerable to being ripped apart, knowing that the prize is the unlocking of the mystery of self. To see my ruby seeds against my peach flesh, to feel the scrape as they are lifted one by one, and to trust that within the ritual is a path to the divine.
The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate! How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.
The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world. But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.
She will enter it. As I have.
She will wake up. She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips. I will say nothing.
From In a Time of Violence, published by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.,
1994. Copyright © 1994 by Eavan Boland. All rights reserved. Used with