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Fickle Muses an online journal of myth and legend

Daphne & Apollo: Meditations
by Donna Lewis Cowan


Beneath a hood of leaves, spiced
with new gold, I lean into bark—

Daphne in her escape,
not quite grown—

the jugular body of a woman silent
when Apollo turned his salty body against her,

his fingers
like flies against a window pane.

She stood shuttered, let none
of the writhing slip

to the bark edges,
silenced the river winds,

that no breeze would sound
how her nimble body broke it,

how her pinions grooved the earth
and how she would rise, clean as jasper,

push to new heavens—
a fortress rising with sawed stones.



She noticed first the looseness of the skin,
as if she had given birth,
but nothing, nothing:

never opened, emptied, sutured shut again,
never the raw, open-breathed fissure,
the breaking shoots of the garden.

She wondered, if she had arms to move,
could they round about a child,
would she warm its body with her own,

would it be more than taking Apollo—
the white-gold flash of him—
into them?…but the blooms about her

tightened, offered nothing;
their stems were stolid as crucifixes;
they touched only in strong winds. 



This was the time-edged terror of having it,
a vessel—the snap and snare
of her body opening, the sharp sweep
of recoiling leaves. 

But Apollo could only love her;
he wisped his lyre strings with a sliver
of her silver bark, laurel woven
about its sea-wood throat. 

The voice was new—
passion raised like the chronic sweat of flowers,
droplets like stones in a boy’s tight fist
and dropped, scattering—

and it was not a chase: no lunging cries
or love notes pinned to tree-trunks,
kneeling and nipping a frail hand. 
When he left her, she prayed

for a fatal discus to strike him,
that he might bloom beside her
and she would shade him
and his hollow conch-shell voice

which asked nothing. 

Tree Dream Encaustic by Stephen Mead

"Tree Dream Encaustic " by Stephen Mead

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