Free to flow in fountains, wells and streams,
I was not one to flaunt my naiad beauty,
and was bound to Peneus by daughterly duty.
I loved to swim and dive, I felt alive in water,
still or flowing, crystal clear as my virginity,
innocent to the onslaught of male potency.
But gods are gods and they will have their sport
with competition, war and debauchery.
Apollo’s mistake was insulting Cupid’s archery,
but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Arrow-pierced Apollo pursued me mercilessly,
and my own leaden arrow wound forced me to flee.
An ardent man is arduous to escape,
forever on my heels, he would not let me be,
Apollo chased me mercilessly
until my lack of breath forced me to stop.
Trembling and falling to my knees,
I prayed to my father, the river-god of Thessaly.
I felt a heavy numbness in my arms and legs,
my skin turned to bark, face merged with the canopy,
my feet became roots, my arms were gnarly.
But Apollo, who embraced my trunk and felt my heart still
beat below the bark, said, “You shall be my evergreen,”
and my branches caressed him lovingly.
So ends my parable of metamorphosis:
the preservation of female chastity
in the bark and leaves of a laurel tree.
Kim M. Russell, 21st April 2020
I didn’t realise I’d be writing to one of my own prompts, from Sunday, April 21, 2019. It was inspired by and amazing novel, The Overstory by Richard Powers, my love of trees, and myths and legends in which people change into trees.
The challenge is to pick a tree story and write a poem about it, in the classical way as a ballad or narrative poem, or an updated version. Last time I wrote a modern version of the Maenad myth, so this time I’ve gone classical.
I’m merging this prompt with Kerry’s Skylover Wordlist, sourced from Dylan Thomas’s poetry collection Deaths and Entrances, from which the twenty-first word is ‘parables’.