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PERSEPHONE by Rob Colgate

“She could have been released— but at the last moment, he gave her a pomegranate seed.”

Something is happening to me that should not be. Not a burst

of red flowing forth from my temples, but a slow inward leak

of a loving fluid I have been told is toxic at high dose.

My therapist says I am not allowed to love boys

anymore— but this boy has brought me a pomegranate.

I watch him peel it. His dexterous, precise hands

moving carefully, as if they belong to us both. He hands

me the arils as he works, his knuckles like seeds ready to burst

forth through the skin. Pomegranate:

a fruit the size of a fist. The acid that leaks

from the arils is said to improve brain function in boys

but only at low doses;

high concentrations are toxic. Hormesis: (of a toxin) low dose

benefit, high dose detriment. A serving the size of your hand.

Drink only a fistful of juice. Hold the boy’s

hand for only a moment. Deep bursting

cysts used to cover my head, had to be leaked

of toxin. My skull is now a vessel for a pomegranate

where a brain full of blood should be. Pomegranate:

(from French) full of seeds. This I understand. But what does

improved brain function mean? What standard? I leak

my psychosis occasionally, a pomegranate in my hands

that I drain alone at night to keep from bursting.

This is something I have not told the boy.

Hormesis: (from Greek) rapid, eager. I do dream of the boy,

red-polished nails dug into my bone-caged pomegranate

as if to bloodlet the fruit, carefully bursting

the arils into his palms to collect the right dose,

the proper function of his hands,

his fingers the most beautiful leeches.

But I will never let him feed me. Leave.

If he were to catch the scent, the boy

would never allow me his hands.

I try to shake the shame of how my pomegranate

leaks rapidly. Psychosis: beneficial at low dose.

Alone, I prick each synapse like a cyst so it bursts,

my overfertile neurons like arils. But

then he holds me, my madness leaving

indelible stains on his arms. The holding does

not hurt. The hands and their boy

trace my burst body like a poem.

This is the least my hands

can do. My pomegranate leaks.

The boy takes a small dose.

His hands, eager. My ribcage, bursting.


Rob Colgate is a Filipino-American poet from Evanston, IL. He holds a degree in psychology from Yale University and is currently pursuing his MFA in poetry with the New Writers Project at UT Austin, where he is also working towards a certificate in critical disability studies. In Austin, he teaches workshops in both creative writing and emotional intelligence. His work is featured in Best New Poets 2020; his first chapbook, So Dark the Gap, was published by Tammy in March 2020 and won the ReadsRainbow Prize for poetry. You can find him at

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