Disappearance, Week Twenty One by Seth Leeper

Huddled in stinking rags,

alone in a dank cave, surrounded

by a sky-less emptiness.

My eyes play tricks on me in the dark.

Nymphs scurry past my feet,

bats cower in corners. Wings beat,

match the rhythm

of the broken pumping

in my chest, faltered flutters.

By now you know them well, daughter,

they are the butterflies of the underworld,

sensitive to the smell of your blood.

They hide their eyes from me.

“Have you seen her?”

I ask indifferent flutters.

Silence in this cave is my reprieve, my punishment.

I am not interested in the sunlight.

It has nothing to offer me.


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.