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I crawl inside the roots of this tree
Wedging my shoulders through.
The narrow crack barely fitting,
like the prom dress that I kept,
insisting
that it’s only a little tight
even as it restricts my movements.
Twisted and contorted into
the too-small space,
the darkness smells
both of the living cambium
and the faint sweet decay
Of old woman, old wood.
This is how Daphne must have felt
Escaping her rapist
By denying her humanity.

from the dverse poetics prompt of 11/19 “surrealism”, and off a prompt from Facebook “the space inside the roots of the oak tree.”

16 thoughts on “Daphne

    • I played with the wedding dress vs prom dress, but the wedding dress has whole other layers of fraught, and didn’t fit the Daphne metaphor as well.

  1. I love the way this poem developed from the Daphne myth, Xan. I agree there is a touch of Alice in the tight prom dress / tree. The phrase that I find truly evocative is ‘the faint sweet decay / Of old woman, old wood’. What a thought, to escape rape by denying your humanity.

  2. Well, sad to say, I am not familiar with the Daphne myth but do think there is a touch of Alice in Wonderland here with the squeezing into the roots and descending.

    • Apollo fell in love with the nymph Daphne, daughter of a river god, and attempted to rape her. Her father turned her into a laurel tree to save her, and it is why the laurel is Apollo’s symbol.

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