Tag Archives: art

Apollo and Daphne


Rome in August. Only the tourists and the feral cats are left.

Fugitive from the heat, I take sanctuary in the Villa Borghese.

Beyond its heavy doors, the squeak of trainers and the smell of beeswax.


In a wedding cake of a room, a sculpture in white marble:  

A youthful Apollo chases a naked Daphne. As his hand touches her waist

She turns away, arms reaching up, fingers sprouting leaves,

Toes sending forth roots, bark closing around her legs and hips.


This binary star pulls me in to its orbit.

As I circle my perspective shifts.


Now the bile of Daphne’s revulsion rises in my throat.

Now the softness of her belly gives way beneath my fingers.

 Now my skin tightens and scabs over.

 Now my fingers are pinched between closing layers of bark.

 Now I’m high with the sugar-rush of rising sap.

 Now I breathe in the warm, woody scent of bay leaves.


I stop.

Below Daphne’s feet words are carved into the plinth –

Mediaeval graffiti ordered by a fat cardinal:

‘Pursuing earthly pleasures always ends in tears.’

An object of passion and beauty ten million years in the making

Reduced to a sound bite in Latin.


I close the cover on my mental notebook.


In the eternal city

Gian Lorenzo carves scalpel lines in space-time

While I hack away at nothing

With a sledgehammer of words.


(c) Helen Lewis, 2009

A visit to the Sistine Chapel, 1511

You’ll find my master on the scaffold there:

Flat on his back, with paint streaks in his hair.

This labour’s how he earns his daily bread;

A marriage of convenience. He’s been wed

For three long winters to this shrewish wife,

Who’s had ten thousand hours of his life.

But every dusk, as night crowds out the day,

And steals all colour, leaving dregs of grey,

He keeps a moonlit tryst with mistress stone,

The only passion that he’s ever known,

Whose skin is smooth and white, whose touch is cold.

Inspired by ageless beauty, he grows old.


(C) Helen Lewis 2009

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