Teege Braune is a writer, bartender, and ESOL instructor living in Orlando, Florida. Some of his work has been published by Pax Americana, Word For/Word, Burrow Press, and Bridge Eight Literary Magazine. He is also a regular contributor to the Drunken Odyssey Web site and podcast and is currently editing a special fiction series for Burrow Press Review.
It’s a sticky morning in the Eleusinian city, and brutal Helios turns his fiery eye on the burdened throng and sucks the dew from violets the color of bruises in their flower boxes along the blistering stone streets. Your figure steams as salty beads loll lazily down your slender neck and evaporate before they can disappear into the dark cleft of your breasts. No doubt Hyperionides sees you among the rest as you move with switching thighs and hips as though oblivious to the late August heat. Wrapped in stifling robes, merchants selling fetid, pungent meat; sidewalk diners sipping tepid wine; and sluggish street performers with heavy feet: all eyes are drawn to your body like flies to carrion, and yet they see you not but long to see. As they rise to call and howl like stupid apes, their tongues are stopped in their throats, and so they stand like the fish mongers’ scaly wares with dumb mouths agape while a cat skulks and steals the choicest skate. Your eyes are nearly black turned inward with reflexive gaze. You will never turn your cold eyes to these slavering, slack-jawed men roasting in the summer heat.
Your mother is Ceres the queen of fecundity. Her arms and rolls and fertile thighs draw the world into her and then birth it anew, transformed. Your hair bedecked with rainbow iris, you declare yourself divine, your eternal mother’s only daughter, but you are stick thin and smooth, delicate as a blade of wheat, and those of her powers, which are your birthright, you only expose like a rare and coveted gem, envy of avaricious men, behind closed doors and drawn shades in the middle of star-flecked nights once the lamps have been extinguished, and Diana in collusion turns away her lunar light. These surreptitious gifts your admirers long to see revealed is your power, which they hope to but shall never steal.
None but I, the king of all things hidden, of everything kept in the dark, Lord of the hour of the wolf and black beetles, which I bid wring decay beneath the reach of Demeter’s domain. I have fallen in love with you, Persephone, Proserpine. Dread maiden, I alone perceive the mystery in your fragile frame, your cold, black eyes, and only I, Kore, dare speak your name.
I am Dis, the Lord of Worms, who blasts the roots of trees, turns blood to wax, and without joy or hate, lops off the buds as they push infant heads up through their chutes of green. Not to sow but to reap, this is my duty and birthright, and I have never known love until thee.
On the back of my chthonic steed, savage and fleet, I will steal you from the Nysion plane, spur him down through the chasm of Avernus, sepulcher of Cyane’s dried and wretched stream, to that putrid river Styx, haul our shroud sail down between his subterranean banks lined with white lilies, orchids, and cyprus knees. No hyacinth here, the narcissus turn their corollas unto thee as we float by. Making port at the Asphodel Meadows, I’ll lead you past departed shades who wander with lips as blue as Lethe and the walls of Tartarus where the damned wail in everlasting pain, down toward my palace in the buried city of Erebus.
There, where it is always dark and no birds sing, I watch you undress, and as you pull your robes over hips, breasts, and silent face, as your hair falls down around your naked shoulders like water spilling onto molten steel, your hips cocked like the crooked rose, your power pours vaporous from your body in a wintery fever, and your mysteries, deep and lush, at last revealed like the open petals of the crocus bloom. I bask in that sweaty, stifling heat and inhale your verdant scent, lose my breath at your beauty, so that I may forget for a moment my stinking palace in my kingdom of death.
There I will feed you pomegranates and watch as you dig the seeds from the fleshy rinds, suck the red juice from sticky fingers as it runs down your arms. I watch as you burst the ruby seeds like beating hearts between your teeth.
With you there in my darkness, formidable, majestic Queen, what do I care if the world above, dried-up and frozen over, withers and dies?