A Myth of Devotion

Louise Glück

 

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he'd introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she'd find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn't everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn't everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That's what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there'd be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn't imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone's Girlhood.

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you're dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

 
"A Myth of Devotion" from Averno by Louise Glück. Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Poems by This Author

October (section I) by Louise Glück
Is it winter again, is it cold again,
Persephone the Wanderer by Louise Glück
In the first version, Persephone...
The Myth of Innocence by Louise Glück
One summer she goes into the field as usual
The Night Migrations by Louise Glück
This is the moment when you see again
The Red Poppy by Louise Glück
The great thing
The Wild Iris by Louise Glück
At the end of my suffering
Vespers by Louise Glück
In your extended absence, you permit me
Witchgrass by Louise Glück


Further Reading

Poems About Hell
The Aeneid, Book VI, [First, the sky and the earth]
by Virgil
A Season in Hell
by Arthur Rimbaud
Canto XIV
by Ezra Pound
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
Hellish Night
by Arthur Rimbaud
How Can It Be I Am No Longer I
by Lucie Brock-Broido
I Am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra
by Ishmael Reed
Medusa
by Patricia Smith
Orfeo
by Jack Spicer
Proverbs of Hell
by William Blake
Silence Raving
by Clayton Eshleman
Slim Greer in Hell
by Sterling A. Brown
Song of Devils
by Thomas Shadwell
Strange Meeting
by Wilfred Owen
Styx
by Dana Levin
The Bistro Styx
by Rita Dove
The Dead
by Mina Loy
The Philosophy of Pitchforks
by Sue Owen
The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland
Worst Things First
by Mark Bibbins