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Strange You Never Knew

Strange You Never Knew front cover

Robert A. Fink

Daphne

after Steve Neves’ painting “Strange You Never Knew”

Not yet the lead arrow, not yet the gold,
young Eros stringing his bow only for minor poets
and minstrels, adolescent boys flexing before mirrors,
fantasizing sixth-grade girls tall as their mothers.
Daphne is safe, Apollo busy revving up his chariot,
its flames, for now, stylized.  She is inviolate
as the bay laurel leaves teasing down to touch
her hair, her cheek, hint of eucalyptol,
Mediterranean breeze.

Soon she will transform into skin-slick bark
and lithesome limbs, spear-tipped glossy leaves,
forever green, pale flowers paired, the only fruit–
small, shining, dark-purple berries.
She will need no tending.  No spurned lover’s ax
can fell her, each blow regenerating, healing
heedless of the slow turn of seasons–winter to spring.
Hers is no fanfare resurrection.  For no man
she dies and rises anew from his bed.

It is only men who paint her, sculpt her soft lines
into marble, smooth, cold to the touch,
the best they can know.  Eros is petulant
and unforgiving, his arrows irony-tipped,
mightier than chariots and music, the feeble poetry
of middle aged men at writing tables cleared of
all but a lined tablet, a soft-lead pencil, gooseneck lamp–
forty watts against the dark of 4:00 a.m.

And yet, even now, a young man steeped in the classics,
the poetry of having loved unknown, poetry of dying
the far, far better death, dreams his Daphne
in repose, seated before an open doorway, demure,
eyes pensive, the note unfolded in her lap.
Her long, auburn hair, her olive skin,
Grecian nose, pomegranate lips ever so slightly parted.
He believes the note she reads is his, shy, secret lines
to hold her, virginal, the only way he can.