1 poem

by Charlotte Hughes

Charlotte Hughes is a high school senior from Columbia, South Carolina. She was a 2020 Adroit Journal Summer Mentee. Her writing can be found or forthcoming in Waxwing, PANK, Columbia Journal, monkeybicycle, and The Raleigh Review, and has been honored by The Kenyon Review, Third Coast, Princeton University, and the Poetry Society of the UK, among others.

[There are several versions of the myth in which Daphne appears]

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Apollo   you thought my breath was short during               the chase,

              that I paused to wipe my sweat and hack

half my cruel lung out    under the Arcadian leaves, too weak

  a color for spring,   and you thought    my stop at father’s

brook, the one with river pebbles slick like   kisses   and water

so cold and so   clear   was to pray        for mercy. 

But my father wasn’t even home.     Oh, and that shoal-shallow

breath, brief break I took,    leaning against a cedar sapling,   drowning in my own sweat?

A pause before the last lap of my daily run. And did you even think that,

     after my hair sprung into boughs       of those bitter-edged

eternal blossoms,   after honeybees danced in dust from the roots

              of my hair, the tips of my skull,   after the tender

skin of my arms fossilized into plates of still-green bark

                                after my face was poxed               after my feet

were intimate with the earthworms and jeweled beetles,

when I tried to snatch your lyre,  your light,      

              and instead met the air,    I was bowing,  your arboreal

bride,    grateful? See, I’ve had      ages to think about it,

   and this time your Laurie Laura Laurel is the poet laureate

of her own heart, and Apollo, oh Apollo,    don’t you know

Leda sews dresses made of swan feathers            Callisto can see

    seven stars dashed in a dark heap and call them Ursa Major

herself,    Semele wears her bronze glasses  around the Mediterranean

              since girls shouldn’t look straight at the sun.

You could call all the pallid sculptures   of me  quiet fear     grandeur

overpouring of mercy                     but this time, I know how the story ends:

my last metamorphosis as    my face straining against the bark

              of the laurel tree, thin and sweet as         chrysalis skin,

the noontime sunrise,   evening gallop,  one dewdrop

on the tip of my new tongue                       and your eyes hanging wide open.

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