Eurydice in Hades
I thought it would be dark,
tucked into the earth
like so many fighting seeds.
But there is light enough
to see my body, its fissures—
collectors of secrets. There
is light enough to see fatigued faces,
houses where I insulted what I was
above ground. Here, below plants
that stretch, hover, guard my rooms
into oblivion, I learn what nothing is.
The rain-drenched body, its broken
kneecaps, my sour stench escaped
from my bay window, grew wings,
and left me. I carve angels,
not for protection but for the face
I never had. Their eyes turn up
as if there were a sky to find
through layers of guilt. Running
through the meadow, I flirted
with pain of dying off. I wanted it
young like in legend—to lie in silk
too good for me in life. Dead,
I could be propped up wicked
and hollow, like plastic storefront
mannequins. The women I adore
attach their faces to their chins—
demure, demure. I am glad he looked
back. It proved he never loved me.
Following his song home, I was
already a ghost and he, unreal,
was just the voice I listened to
for years, echoing in the garret
of my mind. Living in Hell is better
than living a lie. Once the flesh goes under,
it can never resurface, ravaged,
it belongs to the pure cold of earth.
These vigils are obsolete. Don’t tell me
where to place my candles.
I’m all done being nice.
It hasn’t gotten me anywhere.
Since I was young, I gave
money, homework, adoration.
Everyone wanted to make me
into a small version of herself—
teaching me weaving, writing,
wiles. All I wanted was to be loved—
picked a bouquet of dandelions
and handed it to my mother.
When she turned her mouth
into a little o and called the tight
yellow suns weeds, my body
became a weight I wanted
to let go. The only thing I could
open was the jar I was given
as a girl—the one that held
the lessons I was made to memorize
to keep me still, the colors I was told
not to wear because they clashed
with my red hair, rules of modesty
so men would not look at me
with hunger. When I unlatched
the lid, I had already lost everything—
faith, health, my child. I refused
to watch what flew out. But something
hard as lapis, real as want, wrenched
my wrist right back so Hope remained,
writhing alone at the bottom of the jar
like dirty water when dead tulips
are discarded—yellow stamens dropping
pollen to the floor. Silent, Hope watched me
for years. Months at a time, I forgot it was there.
But when its trapped like that, it grows
so large, nothing can quell it. No one thanks me
for what I have done. But I don’t need
praise anymore. I turned weeds into flowers.
Jennifer Franklin (AB Brown, MFA Columbia) is the author of No Small Gift (Four Way Books, 2018) and Looming (Elixir Press, 2015). Her poetry has appeared in Blackbird, Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, Paris Review, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Prairie Schooner and Sixth Finch. She teaches poetry workshops and seminars at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, where she serves as Program Director and co-editor of Slapering Hol Press. She lives in New York City with her family.