Pythian Road

In a valley gleaming with goldenrod
between high-browed hills, I met a god
who was golden-crowned with the sun
and standing, quietly, by the flat-rock run
of a crystal creek, so snakelike through
the waving wildflower view,
and nearby the land that was green and gold
spread vast beyond the blacktop road,
and that rural god walked alone along
the hissing highway, whistling an easy song.
He paused a moment, lost in his thoughts,
and he shook his head at our lots.
He said, “Such haste is it you so often make
that one wonders whether you could ever brake
in time to save you from your own speed
and the fast progress that you think you need.”
Meanwhile the clouds passed overhead,
slow and silent, dark and overfed
with rain, with lightning, bloated in flight
and shading the valley from the midday light,
their pools deep and cool and blue and vast
while a car behind me lost patience and passed
to go wherever it was he thought he liked
while the pagan god took his time and hiked.
The god said, “What a fellow to rush his life
and travel a speed as if Fate’s knife
could be outpaced if he could just get ahead,
only to rush the knife along his thread.
Listen: I may have killed the Pythian snake,
but it is, in fact, an eternal loop in make,
and all mortals are bound to its coils,
so why rush the ending and all that it spoils?
It is the curse of your accelerated age
that you flip the script without reading the page.
Take your time and take in each sight
before you are confined to a Stygian night.”
And though I heard this god, I also wondered—
as the clouds above rained and thundered—
if it was wise to heed a god with all the hours
to walk so slow and admire the flowers.

The Price Of Knowledge

Artemis, her heaving virgin breast
racing hard upon the hunt, the hilltop crest
bathed in moonlight with nimble nymphs thronging
their Mistress of the Moon, all limbs longing
for the twanging of the trembling bows
and Fall’s leaves flying, red-feathered as arrows
cast down upon the wild, bush-battling boar,
shadowed by her hounds, swift upon the moor.
Yet, here, a young man, seeking the hard-won heart
of Chastity herself, ever untouched and apart,
runs fleet-footed as that winged spirit, Hermes,
upon the mercurial midnight breeze.
He is dusk-faced and dark-haired as nocturnal Nyx,
and the Huntress thinks him one of Aphrodite’s tricks,
but then he downs the boar with a single arrow flown,
marking himself in her heart—him, and him alone

The nymphs gasp and giggle and tease their virgin Queen,
but she dismisses them with a murderous mien,
scattering her nymphs to the pools, glades and trees,
leaving her alone with this man built like Achilles.
She dismisses her hounds, their tails all tucked under
and running up the mountains, rumbling like thunder.
Artemis then hails the young man, so fine of frame,
and reaches out to him and asks him his name.
“Any name you wish,” he says, “is a blessing to me,
so long as it is the name you whisper lovingly.”
Artemis blushes, as does the Moon above,
for the Moon swells, as does her heart, with a virgin’s Love.
“It feels as if I have known you my whole life,”
she says, “and it would please me to be your wife.”
The young man doffs his quiver, his crown, his bow,
and his himation, standing naked before her, toe to toe.

He says, “Let us marry one another as they did of old,
with the union of our temples, the enigma of our mold.”
How fit in form they are, chest to chest, link to link,
embraced and enjoined and bound unto the brink,
but just before the climax reaches its exultant high
and the stars and the Moon all fall from the sky,
the dark-haired stranger glows with a familiar light
and the Mistress of the Hunt knows this is not right.
Pulling free from him, she looks at her lover anew
and sees her own features reflected with a masculine hue.
“I do know you of old!” she cries aloud.
“As I you,” he says, shameless and proud.
“I have warned you, sister, of trusting mortal men,
for you are the virgin goddess of the Vestal ken
and to corrupt your temple with a mortal’s seed
would be to trade the holy flower for a sinful weed.”

Horrified, ashamed, Artemis screams for her hounds,
and aims her bow to cleanse these defiled hunting grounds.
Her twin brother, Apollo, takes to the air meanwhile,
his face twisted with a rogue’s lecherous smile.
“I will talk to Father of this blasphemy!” Artemis cries,
“and he will take your tongue, your manhood, your eyes!”
Apollo’s hair fades fair, lightening to a golden-brown
and there shines upon his head a radiant crown.
“I am the seat of Knowledge,” he says, “and upon my brow
there reside all things known, and I know you best, now.”
“I could crown you again,”Artemis screams, “if I could,
with arrows made from Hydra teeth and primordial wood!”
He pays her no mind, flying away to Mount Olympus
where all the other gods watch, laughing, from each nimbus.
Left alone, Artemis weeps for her thankless role,
Knowledge always costing the Virginity of the soul.