Flow, by Jonathan Galassi

 Down the path between the apples
 through the maple grove of suicides
 then left at the old wall
 along the wire fence to the brook-
 bank where narcissus noses
 into skunk cabbage and hepatica:
 Call me Apollo, crashing in the underbrush   
 with my arrows, my bow saw and clippers   
 out for your flash of white tail and alert
 to hack me a path to your lair, to your cult’s den,   
 crisscrossing the water with Phoebe again and again   
 as it elbows below us and runs
 for the creek racks
 strongest in springtime when everything’s liquid,   
 tightroping over the rocks
 in the plashing braid, hot on your sharp
 scent and battling the mayflies
 the black flies horseflies mosquitoes   
 there under the raspberry brambles and getting no nearer . . .
  
 Or am I fleeing your coiling uncoiling   
 tentacular embrace
 battered and scarred, am I seeing   
 your fabled face in the oily pools,
 are these fern hairs sprouting at your knuckles
 branchbones, little leaves halving
 our limbs with leaves—are they yours or mine?   
 Your bloodhounds bay at the copper
 creek, your velvet cape’s aloft
 in the chiaroscuro breeze, you’re near, nearer,   
 hieing, heying, I’m falling, failing,
 gashed, gutted, kneed-up,
 muddy and galled—call me
 Actaeon....
   

From North Street and Other Poems by Jonathan Galassi (New York: HarperCollins, 2001). Reprinted with the kind permission of the author.

“Actaeon, changed into a stag, attacked by one of his own hounds,” a drawing by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. Late 18th century. Pen and brown ink, brown wash. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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