Sunday, April 13, 2014

Delphi, Greece and a Poem by Anne Sexton


I photographed this laurel tree, and the columns behind it, in Delphi, Greece--office of the oracles, omphalos of the earth. Mount Parnassus, home to the muses, rises imposingly behind it:
 

As with so much of Greece--where the names Penelope, Adonis, Calliope, and Apollo are still popular, where cities are named for Poseidon, Athena, and Hermes--the ancient myths echo powerfully in Delphi.



Finding these photos in a recently rediscovered cache of missing study tour snapshots, reminded me of this poem, by Anne Sexton, one of a handful that first made me fall in love with poetry and want to write it myself.  From the myth of Daphne, transformed into a laurel tree in her flight from the amorous god Apollo, Sexton conjures longing and regret of flesh turned into wood:


Where I Live in This Honorable House of 
the Laurel Tree

I live in my wooden legs and O
my green green hands.
Too late
to wish I had not run from you, Apollo,
blood moves still in my bark bound veins.
I, who ran nymph foot to foot in flight,
have only this late desire to arm the trees
I lie within.  The measure that I have lost
silks my pulse.  Each century the trickeries
of need pain me everywhere.
Frost taps my skin and I stay glossed
in honor for you are gone in time.  The air
rings for you, for that astonishing rite
of my breathing tent undone within your light.
I only know how untimely lust has tossed
flesh at the wind forever and moved my fears
toward the intimate Rome of myth we crossed.
I am a fist of my unease
as I spill toward the stars in the empty years.
I build the air with the crown of honor; it keys
my out of time and luckless appetite.
You gave me honor too soon, Apollo.
There is no one left who understands
how I wait
here in my wooden legs and O
my green green hands.


Delphic stray

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