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]
Note: We recommend reading this piece on desktop due to its unique formatting.
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.