the pomegranate: a story

Why the pomegranate, strange fruit?

Why the glistening luminescent pomegranate red seeds? Why the three-chambered pomegranate that morphs through time and space?

In Persia, it means fecundity.

In Greece, the fruit is smashed on special occasions.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the myth of Demeter and Persephone pivots on the seven pomegranate seeds that bind the kidnapped daughter to Hades’ underworld for six months of the year.

For poet Evan Boland, the myth of “The Pomegranate” mutates through time as the reader enters the words as daughter, then mother, or — not mother.

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.

The poet ends the poem muses on the inevitable separation from the maturing daughter and reflects

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.

***

I first encountered Persephone in Ovid’s Metamorphosis, a book I read in a Greek mythology class with Jay Macpherson, Governor-General Award-winning poet and specialist in Romantic literature and classical mythology. The other half of the class featured the renowned critic Northrop Frye teaching about The Bible, a series of lectures that would become The Great Code.

In a small gallery across from the AGO in Toronto,  I found a small engraving of a girl asleep in an underground cave and she became an image I carried with me, a reminder of what it takes to come up from under in order to make your voice heard.

I write this four decades later from another place. In Ovid’s story, Demeter’s grief-stricken journey to search for her daughter Persephone is interrupted by an encounter with an older woman named Baubo. Without introduction, Baubo lifts up her skirts and laughs out loud. Demeter laughs too.

At twenty or so years of age, I didn’t get the joke. At almost sixty I clown along with Baubo’s  laughter, taking pleasure in her ribald buffoonery in the face of Demeter’s loss and despair.

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