10 November 2011
A Daphne Crown
She flits between the trees, and the only glimpses I am granted are shreds of white gauze vanishing between mammoth tree trunks like the legs of a colossus. She laughs, mocking, and it enrages me. Her laughter echoes...echoes...echoes, returns to me from behind, before, to the left and right. There is no sound but her bell-chime voice, no sight but her lithe, lovely form. She is all around me, she is everywhere, she is nowhere.
Her very name is like bewitching music coursing within me, burning fiery in my veins. My side stings where Eros fired his golden arrow; I hear Daphne's laughter pulling me ever onward. I see a single drop of blood glimmering bright and bold in a pool of sunlight, Daphne's blood; I dip my finger in the spot of crimson and taste her essence therein, like honey, like sunlight. I charge forward through the wood, and now I see her. She too presses a palm to the ivory skin of her side. She leans against a majestic elm, a leaden arrow lying at her feet. She sees me, framed by the sun, and she takes a step away from the tree. My heart leaps...I step towards her, hands outstretched; I can almost feel her skin beneath me, hear her panting in my ear...
...She lifts her face heavenward, calls the name of her father the river god, begs him to save her...Save her? Why needs she to be saved? I take another step forward, poetry of love on my lips...
She flees yet again, and my heart is crushed, my ire roused. All I want is to love her, and I will, I will have her. She runs like a wounded deer now, wild and frantic, weaving between trunks and ducking under low-hanging boughs and even as I pursue her I feel my lust rising at the tantalizing glimpses of her lovely body moving with such gazelle grace beneath the sheer white silken gown. My own unflagging speed carries me nearer, nearer, she is within grasp and now I have a handful of silk in my fist...
She cries out again, and I hear true anguish in her dulcet wail; she wrenches her head around to look at me, revulsion in her marble features, and her body is twisting as she pulls away from me. My hands are wrapped around her waist, I have her in my arms at last. But her pure white alabaster skin, so smooth and warm and flawless, is changing beneath my touch, turning rough and coarse, darkening, hardening. Her hair, black as raven wings, lustrous and shimmering in the noonday sun, her hair is turning green, spreading out and rising upwards as a million leaves fluttering in the breeze, stretching towards the sun as if hungry for his light, and her arms are reaching for the sky as well, twisting and knotting, bending, splitting and contorting, her legs are merging and thickening and driving grasping roots like serpentine tendrils into the ground, into the soft black loam. She has become a tree, an elegant laurel tree, leaves like spearheads wavering luminous in the brilliant sunlight.
Peneus has protected her. Damn him.
I wrap my arms around her broad, solid trunk, gaze up at the azure sky through her fluttering foliage, kiss her now-rough skin, caress her as if she were still flesh and blood. I turn away, unable to face the hungry hollow in my soul, the place where she belongs.
Wind stirs, soughs through the forest, lifts her delicate branches. I turn back to her, pluck leaves from her and weave a crown, whisper a prayer to her, promise to never forget her.
My Daphne, my love.