The Mercy of Compromise

I haven’t covered this ground
Walked this sacred path
Since I stormed the borders of Hades
Looking for her — my daughter
My everything
As each autumn ended, when
Night fell on our last day together
I would walk her
Almost to the point of crossing
Letting her go more and more into the
Darkness alone — as I would soon be
Because of him, my brother
The one who took what wasn’t his

But this time I walk next to her
As she carries a rolled piece of sod
That we carved from the earth together
The moon is kind tonight and lights our way
I put my hand on her shoulder and remind
Her the grass will last barely a day
“Then bring another tomorrow”
She looks at me with hope and assurance
She has become a queen in the years since
Her abduction, his queen
Will he allow us this? To bring life into his realm
Even if it burns brightly for no time at all?

I can tell we’ve crossed over when the light changes
From moonlit to foggy gray and the sod
Begins to wither, until she lays her cheek on it
Bringing it back slowly
Flowers spring up from it
The gray of the borderlands is momentarily
Pink and gold, red and purple
And it smells like the meadows
When she’s back with me and at full
Strength: the spring maid, home at last
“He will not allow this,” I murmur

“I will” a deep voice — a hated voice —
Says from the darkness
My daughter holds out her hand
Her smile a restrained one but true nonetheless
And he takes it and allows her to draw him close
Until he leans in and smells her blossoms
His eyes meet mine and I see regret
Finally, I see regret
“I took this from the world”

My daughter murmurs that things are
Only appreciated when they 
Are absent for a time
My love for her has never waned
Not when I had her fully and not when
I lost her to this darkness
But still I feel the sting of a slap
Until she reaches for my hand
And brings it to rest on his and asks
“Isn’t it time to forgive?”

My brother doesn’t look away
My daughter focuses on the flowers
Their scent luscious and ripe
Summer florals now, not spring
Heady, like night-blooming jasmine
She has learned to shine no matter
Where she’s planted
“Will we see you tomorrow?” he asks
Careful not to touch the sod as he leans
In again to enjoy the aroma

I’ve never seen the home he’s made
For her, if he’s built her a throne
If his three-headed mutt adores her
How the dead find her voice, her
Dual-world’s beauty
I’ve avoided my daughter’s life
Since I couldn’t have her to myself
Was this, perhaps, a selfishness?
Her smile is untroubled
“Of course we’ll see her tomorrow”
She holds our hands together tightly
Mine hot, his cold and hers
Somewhere in between

[Gerri Leen is a Pushcart- and Rhysling-nominated poet from Northern Virginia who’s into horse racing, tea, collecting encaustic art and raku pottery, and making weird one-pan meals. She has poetry published in Strange Horizons, Dreams & Nightmares, Polu Texni, Liquid Imagination, NewMyths.com and others. She also writes fiction in many genres (as Gerri Leen for speculative and mainstream, and Kim Strattford for romance) and is a member of HWA and SFWA. Visit gerrileen.com to see what she’s been up to.]