What fickle gardeners all gods be
that punish by pruning the young stem
for the trespass of the ancient tree
even as fruit is offered to them.
How inert thy heart be now in repose
beneath the reign of his luminous love,
having been chased from out of thy maiden clothes
and thus sheltering with leaves above.
Was it stench of blood billowing outward
like snake wherefrom all prophecies were spilled
or was it thought of Apollo’s touch that spurred
thy limbs harden so as to not yield?
Victory was thine, of dubious sort,
in laurel leaves crowned with thy frightful flight
and crowning all whom of Olympian sport
competed for favor in his light.
But I also wonder if since thou grow
with thy crown proffered to the light to tease
thy pursuer with what he would never know,
are not thou like other trees?
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.