Tag Archives: myth

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


The first leaf of autumn

i

Phaedra the wood nymph sings and dances, showering the glade with rose petals. She is naked apart from a chain of daisies around her head. As she sways, her long hair swings. Suddenly she stops.

‘Who’s there?’ she calls. ‘Show yourself!’

A young man emerges from a bush. He has sun gold hair and sky blue eyes, and his garments are willow green.

‘I am Summer,’ he says, ‘deity of the season. I wander the earth at this time of year, inspecting my handiwork.’

‘I am not your handiwork,’ says Phaedra. ‘You have no right to inspect me.’

 

ii

Dear Diary,

You’ll never guess what happened today! I was singing and dancing in the nude like I always do, and this bloke popped up out of a bush and told me he was a god. A god!!!! I was totally gobsmacked — you don’t get to meet gods very often. Actually, I did meet one once, but he was old and ugly and full of himself, so he doesn’t count. And this one was abso-bloody-lutely gorgeous! He tried to kiss me and I didn’t stop him. I think I’m in lurve!

 

iii

From: bunny@yahoo.com

To: freeze_ur_butt@gmail.com; misty@hotmail.com

Subject: Our wayward brother

Brothers,

It has come to my attention that Summer has declared his love for the wood nymph Phaedra.

It is not fitting for a deity to become romantically involved with a semi-mortal.

We need to take action.

Spring

Vernal Deity

____________

From: freeze_ur_butt@gmail.com

To: bunny@yahoo.com; misty@hotmail.com

Subject: Re: Our wayward brother

I reckon wood nymphs are fair game. I tried to cop off with Phaedra myself once, and she gave me the cold shoulder. If I can’t have her, then I don’t see why anyone else should.

I agree that we’ve got to do something.

Coldly,

Winter

__________

From: misty@hotmail.com

To: freeze_ur_butt@gmail.com; bunny@yahoo.com

Subject: Re: Our wayward brother

Hey guys,

I don’t think there’s anything we can do right now. It’s Summer’s time, you know? But when the first leaf of autumn falls, the mystical power thingy transfers to me, and I’ll do something rad.

Chill.

Your mellow brother,

Autumn (AKA Fall)

_________

 

iv

Summer is drawing

to a close. It rains all night

and in the morning

 

the lovers embrace

beneath a maple tree and

share tearful goodbyes.

 

‘I’ll come back next year,’

says Summer. ‘You better had,’

Phaedra whispers back.

 

As they pull apart

a leaf spins down towards the

puddle at their feet.

 

And then it happens.

Phaedra turns to stone right where

she’s standing; eyes wide,

 

fingers to lips, mouth

open in surprise. She won’t

dance and sing again

 

until Summer sneaks

back into the woods and the

roses bloom once more.

 

(C) Helen Lewis 2011


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