“Persephone Remembers: The Bed” by Alison Townsend

Alison Townsend


It happens in the dark.
If it was light would she be able to stand it?
Her father’s bed a cave she crawls into
when she wakes, forgetting, then remembering,
the scab sleep weaves over the raw place torn open.

The bed, the bed, something that happened in the bed.

Her mother is dead
and everything green has been folded away,
like the flower-sprigged eiderdown in the closet
where she buried her face to remember summer
and the scent of her mother’s live body.

The bed, something happened in the bed,

and the bear she once pretended to be—
those times she touched herself where no one had before—
has gotten inside her father’s body, touching
where she touched, and it is wrong then
gone between her fingers and

the bed, the bed. Something that happened,

something that wakes her after she has fallen
a long way through darkness, someone
who shakes her, says to get up and return
to her own bed, it is morning now, “our secret,”
she must not tell her brother and sister.

The bed, something in the bed,
where her mother taught her to make
hospital corners, where she tucks
and folds the blank spaces into rhymes,
counting the beats between each breath,
bed and head, bed and red, bed and dead.

The bed, the bed, something happened and her mother

is dead and there is no one between
the girl and the sparks of their father’s
sadness, loss a bright red wound he circles
like a bear before sleep, the cave walls
flickering with the prints of hands.

The bed, the bed, it is

her own bed then, carved posts
and pineapple finials, the mattress
imprinted with the shape of her body,
and she is a feather, light in her father’s arms.
Though what she remembers is a dream

the bed, the bed, girl moving like a ghost,
walking, just a glimpse of something
that happened to the girl dreaming
in green cotton pajamas she is that girl
in the bed with her father then

back in her own bed again, where the pictures
run together into something wet on her leg,
the bed and the bear and what happened?
It blurs, it is red, and she is her mother,
which must mean she is dead, too.

Though sun shines through white lace
across her window, though her brother
and sister sigh and stir, though she tastes
the dirt from which each green word springs,
bitter as medicine at the back of her mouth.

from Rattle #28, Winter 2007


Alison Townsend: “I write poetry to make discoveries, to articulate what feels (at least initially) beyond words, to find out what I don’t know I know.”

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