The earth opened like a gaping wound and you dragged me screaming down into it, caught in the vise of your great arm. The other whipped on your black horses whose nostrils spurted fire.

There in the dim underground you took me on a vast bed of obsidian carved into the shape of a swan, laid with black silk sheets. The long hot length and breadth of you pounded my virginity to shreds until at last I lay crying and helpless. You covered me tenderly and wiped the tears that I'd missed, and then you were gone.

How can you measure time in the realm of the dead? Your servants prepared choice banquets for me with roast meats, delicate breads and cakes, the roundest and reddest fruits. While we on Olympus despise the thin, insipid nectar and cloyingly sweet ambrosia that serves as our only food, I would touch nothing of yours.

But you stayed anyway, and used sweet and courteous words. Through your deep cavernous kingdom I agreed to walk with you. Deep we delved into crystalline caverns, or walked along the shores of lava lakes. Your hand brushed mine and then held it, and I no longer pulled my own away.

You had fine spun gold and bright jewels fashioned into circlets, bracelets and earrings for me, beautiful things that brightened my hair and eyes, and I no longer feared you.

Then, who knows if it was during a night or morning in the house of the dead, the herald came with his wicked laughing eyes and winged feet. "Zeus says she must return," he told you, and your own eyes blazed with black fire. "Her mother has blasted the earth, and men are dying."

"So much the better for me," you remarked. "Why should I sorrow at the increase of my kingdom?"

"Do you want war with Zeus?" Hermes asked.

Your body glowed with darkness visible. "Let him come for her himself. We will be ready for him."

"You know the deep rubric," Hermes said. "If she has not tasted of the food of the dead, you cannot hold her."

"I will speak with my wife privately, to say my goodbyes," you replied. "The deepest rule will surely grant me that."

Hermes nodded, and you led me to my bedchamber. We sat on the bed you'd left to me alone, since that first night.

"Persephone," you said. "I love you. I want you to stay. It can be good here. I can be good to you, you'll see," and as you spoke, you cut open a pomegranate, and pulled off a single ruby seed. You put it in your mouth between your lips and offered your mouth to me, your eyes pulling me in with warm, naked appeal.

To not eat meant to go back to my mother and her bossy, smothering, husbandless complacency. Back to the company of insipid girls who giggled and twitted each other like moths, with as little substance. Back to always being the daughter, the child, the little one, the maiden.

Look at me, mother. I'm not a maiden anymore. What is left up there for me now?

Closer came your mouth, so I took it in mine, and the seed burst between our lips. The sharp juicy tang spread all through my mouth as you pulled on my lips with yours, as you licked the juice off my mouth and gently touched my teeth with your tongue.

Then you pulled back, and offered the fruit to me. This time it was between my lips the little ruby rested, and you tenderly pushed it into my mouth with your warm tongue, where it burst and gave up its red juicy center. Soft you went around me in circles, back and forth, until I gasped for breath. I've never felt like this. My mouth is glowing. I slumped against you, and rested limp in your arms.

Another seed between your lips, this time, and I bit at it with my tongue, nicking your lip as well. The juice ran down into your beard like blood, and I licked it off. How soft your beard was, so curly and fluffy against my tongue.

"My turn," I laughed. "See if you can find it," and I hid the seed in my mouth. Then I opened to you like an oyster, and you searched for the little red pearl until you pierced it once again.

How could I have despised the heavy strength of your chest or its soft fur? Hot and erect you pressed up against my leg. Then you took two seeds, one for each of us, and placed one in each of our mouths.

You wrapped me up in your arms and down our kisses went, deeper than I thought they could ever go. This time, when you lay back on our bed and reached for me, I didn't fight. Open your tunic fell, up went mine, and delight sang in me as you pulled me onto your heft-slabbed chest. Down I slid onto the hot column of your love, until the fierce wild cries burst forth from my throat like juice from the pomegranate.

Then you worked me slowly with rude muscle, until I fell onto you all covered in darkness. You cried aloud as you sprayed my thighs with silver. We must have slept, for we startled when a loud rap came upon the door.

"Zeus needs your answer," Hermes called.

"A moment," you called back. "Give us a moment."

We came out of our room, your great arm around me, a few stains like blood on our lips. Hermes looked away. You tossed the pomegranate onto the table in front of him.

"How many?" Hermes asked me, not looking.

"Six. Half a year."

Pain now crossed your face instead of desire. "I'll come back," I said. "First for six months, but then for good. She thinks she wants to keep me forever, but she won't. She'll let me come back once she sees me. Once she sees you on me."

Then Hermes did turn to me, eyes now wide with amazement. "Look at yourself," he said.

"I can't. We have no mirrors here among the dead."

He took off his shining helmet and offered it to me. Out of it my face blazed.

"In this land where Olympus has no eyes or ears," Hermes said, "I can safely say this to you. You are the most beautiful of all goddesses. Aphrodite herself will someday come to you for beauty. I don't think they'll keep you."

"Good-bye, my love," you said. "Return to me."

"I will," I promised. I will. And then we will feast.