Bernini's Daphne
by Nancy Bailey Miller

Is she a willful youth?
Or frightened by her budding sexuality, aloof
and distant? Never brothers, sisters, friends?
And where's the mother to discuss those bends
and turns, the maturation ups and downs,
the blossoming hopes, the protean moods, the frowns?
By all accounts Apollo is a handsome youth.
Consumed by love his heart breaks into flame, enough
to burn September fields of wheat and straw,
but Daphne seeks her father's shoulder. Raw
with fear, perhaps, she pleads with him, the river god,
Protect my flesh from Phoebus' lust. Nodding,
he transforms his child to ever chaste as
chased she turns to bark and leaf,
a laurel, turns away from Phoebus; thief
in her garden he'll no longer be,
her youth a fossilized virginity.

First published in:
Before the Dove Returns, Strathmoor Books, a Division of Tabby House,
Charlotte Harbor, FL, 2004  

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