We start with a girl sitting in uncut grass. It is spring. The grass is sweet, like melon rinds. We start with a chariot, and an old god who gets drunk off resistance. We start with abduction.
Two months later, Demeter wanders through Eleusis looking for her child. She cannot help how her feet freeze the ground barren, the way her sorrow withers the grain dry. As she walks the streets, she hands smiles to the starving villagers like a peace offering. Or an apology. They say this is how winter first came; unfolded from a body that did not know the next time it would bend around its daughter. Winter, born in helplessness.
Your face is stony as the professor clicks on to the next slide, his voice already reciting the next story, Persephone’s emptying an afterthought of his syllabus. When he speaks of winter, you do not think of uncut meadows or withered lands. You think of dimming skate parks and vodka painted bedrooms, of thick hands and the way they cracked you open. There are no myths to explain why you don’t go home for Christmas, no seeds tumbling from your tongue as you describe the metal rooms and recorders, the way the police lost your name with every retelling. When he lectures on the hymn with grey trees bent in mourning, you forget to ask him, for who?
We start with a girl, unopened, uncut palms.
It is winter.
Juliana Chang is a Taiwanese American writer and filmmaker. She received a BA in Linguistics and a MA in Sociology from Stanford University in 2019. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in The Chestnut Review, K’in, RABBIT magazine, Rufous City Review, and more.
Artwork: Sarah Ann Loreth