raven taking flight from tree
Photo by Ynne on Unsplash

Disappearance, Week Six by Seth Leeper

My focus good as smoke in navigation.

In the dim light I see a birdman

watching my approach. His head,

a down of tiered feathers,

to match the vibrant sheen

of his chest. Nude, below

he is fully human.

He raises his hand in greeting, sets loose

a shrill warning cry. A baleful, pained

mantra unleashed from his beaked mouth. “I have

seen your daughter,” he says. “Down below the earth,

the darkness so thick, it casts no shadow.”

Southerly winds stir the dirt and stones at our feet.

An angry, sudden gust shakes the dry trees,

Cracks trunks, uproots the worms and serpents.

All I see is your face, daughter,

through the stinging blur of my vision.


Seth Leeper is a queer poet. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic, Always Crashing, The Summerset Review, The Broadkill Review, White Wall Review, decomp journal, and others. He holds an M.A. in Special Education from Pace University and B.A. in Creative Writing and Fashion Journalism from San Francisco State University. He lives and teaches in Brooklyn, NY. He tweets @sethwleeper.

Author's note

These pieces are from a manuscript titled, Persephone’s Aria, in which I wrote into the voices of Demeter and Persephone. Both figures cast a far shadow as archetypes through the centuries, but like other mythical figures, they have typically been spoken of and for. The intention of the project was to restore agency for these voices to own their own narratives. The pieces featured in Carmina Magazine are written in the voice of Demeter, as she searches for, and grieves, her daughter. There is an undercurrent of trauma for both mother and daughter in the wake of abduction and violation that inevitably changes each, and I was curious how that would impact that relationship. We find Demeter here on a journey that is both bereavement and sojourn over the course of the six months of Persphone’s disappearance. Each poem's title acts as a chronological framing of Demeter’s progression as she descends further into despair. They chronicle how her interactions and feelings towards her environment shifted with the escalation of her grief. I would be remiss not to mention how crucial the act of listening was in crafting the work. I strove to tune into a frequency that would convey each voice, and it is my hope that I was able to honor that gift with authenticity.