“There are no curses, only mirrors
held up to the souls of gods and mortals.”
–“Demeter’s Prayer to Hades,” Rita Dove
The turning of the seasons, the tension of life and death. A myth where the goddess that grows seeks her daughter back from the god of death. Okay, fine the god of the underworld. But death sounds so much more dramatic.
And that is what Dove’s poem (which you can read in its entirety here) focuses on–the dramatic. Not the dramatic for drama’s sake though. “Demeter’s Prayer to Hades” pulls on the mythos that lies behind it. This is drama with a purpose. The Greeks explain the seasons; Dove faces intentions and reality. A goddess’s daughter is traded between Olympus and the Underworld; a human being explores belief and knowledge.
To be honest, I don’t entirely understand what Dove is saying in her poem. I feel the tension–the sorrow and the beauty mixed–nevertheless. I can’t help but thinking that this poem-prayer knows something about myself, and I look forward to turning its melancholic curse into a mirror.