Forget all that, close your eyes.
Here in the swimmy Rorschach-like
dark-light behind your clammy lids
lies both Winter and Spring.
It’s miraculous how love
left long enough
returns to instinct.
What exactly are you looking at
living, breathing, heart-thumping thing?
There is no abyss here to stare down,
no numinous dark-light thing to feel,
no low murmur to whisper nothings to.
There is no-one here, but you,
living, breathing, heart-thumping thing.
I wither and you break from me;
yet though you dance in living light
I am the earth, I am the root,
I am the stem that fed the fruit,
the link that joins you to the night.
—Judith Wright, 1963 (from “Woman to Child”)
I. Proserpina in utero
a knobby cluster pulsates in dappled light
and already gauges the darkness of innocence.
a knobby cluster pulsates in a leathery pod
and distrusts the stink of the ripping womb, all that blood,
that oceanic burst of unabridged life.
Proserpina doesn’t want to be born just yet.
Swallow your pain my smallest, sweetest, little girl
before it climbs out of your mouth
and puts us both to shame
my smallest, sweetest, little girl.
Proserpina doesn’t want to be born just yet,
because she’ll be a pink, PTSD-abandoned baby and
her mother, a shoe-billed stork, C-o- n-s- p-I- c-u- o-u- s,
and Fate, Fate is an unforgiving fist churning out umbilical cords.
On a thin Bible-sized slice of paper,
the girl’s father writes a welcome note.
II. Proserpina speaks to her sister
I’ve been meaning to call sis,
to ask that you forget about our violent little childhood,
that you carry on despite of me, despite ma’s endless winter.
Will you be kind to the kids? but don’t smile too wide,
don’t press too hard, don’t be a darkling monarch, sis.
Let every Spring you have left, blush at the sight of you.
III. Proserpina speaks to her mother
Mamma, mamma, mamma,
I was never your Proserpina.
It was never between you
and the Underworld.
I was your Jew, mother,
and I left, and that’s that.
CHARIKA SWANEPOEL is a South African poet and literary scholar. She is currently pursuing her MA in English Poetry at North-West University. Some of her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in and on platforms such as New Contrast, Prufrock, Aerodrome, Literator, Glass Poetry, etc. She is also an editorial reader for Helen Magazine, Frontier Poetry, and E&GJ Press, as well as assistant reviews editor at New Found (org).