“When I Get to the Underworld” by Juliette Givhan

Persephone will greet me at the gates.
She has a soft spot for things like me,
mutts of miscegenation,
forced to live in two worlds
at odds with each other.
Girls that cross state lines
to the heat of a swamp thick south land,
an Alabama deep land,
dark land,
ones that know there’s a rapidness
to violence,
who discovered before their bodies
got the chance to bloom
how fast the cavern opens,
the trigger pulls.
Persephone will charter
a private barge,
pay Chairon double for a trip
with the two of us
& all our baggage,
she won’t say anything
when the boat slips free of the shore,
cuts across a mirrored surface of souls
she’s used to deep silences.
When she speaks,
it’ll be about mothers,
(hers Olympian, mine Ohioan)
a comment on how similar they are,
when they decide to protect their daughters.
Oh, how love can make a woman
willing to wreck the entire world.
Persephone won’t judge
when I feast on the bounty
of her table,
she knows what it is
to have a hole inside the body
needing to be filled.
She won’t say that these seeds
can’t bare the kind of fruit
that would let either of us
grow here.

Juliette Givhan (she/her/hers) is a poet and MFA candidate at Oregon State University. She completed a BA in English with a minor in African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. Her writing explores the intersection of multiple identities, and how to survive as a Black queer woman in America.