Persephone Feasting

from the Eleusinian Mysteries

by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler

In the deep cup named after him,
Hades feels absurd,
like most old men with young wives.
Sure, he possessed her, technically.

Pointlessly post-coital Persephone
with her pointedly barefoot stride,
flies laughing from the bedchamber,
rambunctious and craving breakfast.

The black tiles in the foyer
were meant to overawe
distinguished visitors, shuffling
slow and quiet so as not to wake

the dead draped over the rafters
and intricately peopling the chandeliers.
Now his bony feet skid over their veins
as he pursues his truant bride

across mealy dunes of meatless bone,
under eyeless & languid hurricanes of souls,
past the placidly unresponsive lake,
to the orchard she ravishes.

Persephone adores the food of the dead,
coalescing with mineral remoteness,
granite pomegranates whose marbled hides snap
at the adroit pressure of her short farmgirl fingernails

and disgorge their tiers of red seeds.
The branches that bore them, bald as test tubes,
become bleary and knotted observers now—of her mouth
joyously wrinkling around their sour offerings.


Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler is a poet and translator from Canterbury, New Hampshire, best known for his English renderings of books by the great contemporary Ukrainian author Serhiy Zhadan, in collaboration with co-translator Reilly Costigan-Humes. His poetry and translations have appeared in journals including Ad Hoc Monadnock, Coldnoon, The Missing Slate, and Two Lines. His next translation, The Orphanage, is forthcoming from Yale University Press.