Contemplating Bernini’s Sculpture of Apollo and Daphne
Rome’s Borghese Gallery
Just as she feels Apollo’s breath hot upon her
nape, as he reaches for her dimpled breasts,
Daphne’s toes root into earth, her fingers branch
fractally, her tresses leaf into veined wings,
and fine bark encases her chest. The planed
vestments are unyielding and slick, as she
begins her metamorphosis into a laurel tree.
I once craved the same cabinetry.
I never wanted these breasts, their tenderness.
I wanted the simplicity of a flat chest. I wanted
to skip across the playground without fear
of falling into puberty, to outrun these twin threats,
and – if I tripped – to be rescued by daddy. But
they came anyway, sprouting from the tightly-
made bed of firm flesh as blood dribbled between
my legs. Curve followed curve, and I succumbed
to the widening softness that would make my nights
harder. Shadowed now by the dusk of settling
memories, I circle the couple – never to be coupled.
Appraising Daphne’s polished skin, its unbreached
marble reflecting my sins, I reject what had been
our shared ardor – to hide from worlds that would
sculpt the impress of lips upon breasts. Better to
welcome the wounding, no matter how deep the cut.
Ellen Sazzman has recently been published in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Sow’s Ear, Lilith, Beltway Quarterly, Southward, Dash, Miramar, Intima, Common Ground, and CALYX, among others. She has received an honourable mention in the 2019 Allen Ginsberg poetry contest, was shortlisted for the 2018 O’Donoghue Poetry Prize, was awarded first place in Poetica’s 2016 Anna Rosenberg poetry competition, and was one of six winners of the 2016 Moving Words poetry contest. She was also a 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee by Bloodroot Literary Magazine and a 2010 Split This Rock finalist.
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