The Essence of Blossoms: Metamorphosis in Memoriam

(In Response to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book I: Apollo and Daphne)

Wesley D. Gray

I.

At thirteen,

you were a crystal sapling,
crisp as a petal made of sheet glass
ready to shatter, all blue eyes and golden hair
shivering in sunshine,
and when I stalked you through the orchard,
following your scent in a precipice of false gravity,

I remember
how the sky breathed into your clothing,
turning your canary dress into a puffy yellow parachute
before it broke upward in a flush of legs
and panic and pink-spotted panties.

I remember
that was the first time I caught you,
the first time our bodies intertwined
like branches thrashing in a storm;

I remember
how the dirt clung to your sweat
as we rolled along the ground,
making you look broken like cracked earth,

and how your dress peeled from your chest
forcing me to gasp,
and how in the shudders of pubescent excitement,
as I felt the frantic hummingbird flutters
of your heart pecking against my palm

and you breathed on my neck
in heaves of anticipation
and eagerness and wonder,

I found the bruise on your shin
that reminded me of the rotten spots
on the apples that shared our secrets,

and how I pressed

hard

into it

with my thumb,

and would have thought
to break the skin
with a belch of brown mush,

but all that escaped you
was your cry
as you shriveled,

and ran away.

 

II.

At sixteen,

you were a blush
of pink vine and sweetbriar,
approaching fullness and pseudo-pruned,
yet wild with the erratic curves
of pain and desire,
succulent berries brimming,
primed for gleaning,

and this time,
as we rolled through the twilight grasses,
the red fruits surrounding us

bulging

dark
like the rich
purple of thickened veins,

I thought I heard you whimper
when I stroked
the warmer parts of your inner thigh

and felt your whispers quavering
as you ran your lips along my neck
all the way to my core,

and though I knew better this time
than to cause you pain,
when you let me slide
your panties to your knees,

I couldn’t help
but put a hand to your throat
until your eyes

bulged

like ripened fruit;

that was the first time
I felt the sting of your thorns,
and through my bloodied eyes
I watched you running,

tripping from the jumble of cotton
that shackled your legs,

and as you recovered,
shambling off into the gloaming,
drips of blood spattering

across the blades of grass,
from the tip of your nose,
from between your fingers
as you gripped a wounded skull,
I reached my hand out to you,

and I groaned
in unmet gratification,
in growling hunger,

and in regret.

 

III.

At nineteen,

when I found you
in another man’s orchard,
the prophecies of winter sparkling

in the dead-blue light
of a waning gibbous moon,
golden hair glowing verdant
and full limbs shaking,
you were more like

the trees

which had once been
the playmates of our childhood,
and I saw you scream
before I heard you,
looking at me with the same fear
you held at thirteen,

and as I chased you through the brambles,

I knew
you were no longer that little girl,
and we both knew
this was no longer a game.

So as the thorns ripped at our skins
and spilled our blood
to the sodden earth,

I remember
feeling saddened in that moment

I realized
how drastically things had changed,

how they’d gone askew,
and how the world
had grown up
between us.

 

IV.

Now,

as the setting sun bleeds
from between the gnarled bones of the tree,
and I plus the busty red
from its skeleton grip
and chomp on crisp, golden flesh,
cascades of juice pouring to my chin,

and I remember
how you shook so fervently
in the entanglement on that frozen night,
blood and mascara scarring your cheeks,

like

tar

seared

into

snow,

I see you,
still but only nineteen,
sleeping below the surface
in the cool dominion of worms,
body gripped in the curls
of the rootstock cage,

your beauty pristine,

placid,

and you–
my tender Laurel,

your
essence
nurturing
the blossoms–

are a mother.

 

 

***

Wesley D. Gray is a writer of things mostly strange. He is an active member of the HWA, an author of fiction, and a poet. His first two books include Come Fly with Death: Poems Inspired by the Artwork of Zdzislaw Beksinski, and the horror novel, Feeding Lazarus (written as Rafe Grayson). Residing in Florida with his wife and two children, most nights you can find him enjoying a wide variety of geeky activities, but mostly, tabletop gaming with family and friends. Discover more at WesDGray.com.