Apollo and Marsyas
Go. Go before I change my mind, Is all He would have thought, and said, If not for the great glee He heard In how Marsyas gripped and played The thin, twig-tied pipes for the Lord Of Light, Prince of Gods, Apollo, The Core Verse incarnate, Father And Avenger of Troilus. Bonheur blared from the spit-soaked wood As his left hind leg and hoof stomped Out one impossible measure After another as, unsure Of what we were hearing, we hid And half-watched, half-blinded by His Half-presence, from a safe distance. How happy do you have to be Before the gods come to stoke and Then smother it? Poor Marsyas. Thirty-seven summers ago, when This bower itself was still young And on trial, He descended— Sunluxed, blessed, and blessing with Dawn. He cooed into the kid’s flared ear. That was all it took, and was. Air. Air from the Harbinger of Song. A gift: until he offended Great Apollo, boasting, “I can play Almost as well as Great Apollo.” But he couldn’t. And he didn’t. And Great Apollo took his prize. He toyed Marsyas to tinsel, Then hung his stripped skin from a tree, And said, I am Apollo: the Power And Glory and First Song. Burn this bower. Burn it down—. Then, scribe, write well of me.
The God and the goat
And then the goat said to the God, Deliver me my skin. And He Did. Then the goat said to the God, Anoint me in my skin again. —And He did. Then the goat said To the God, Seal me in my skin. And He did—. He salved the seams. And subtled him. And Himself, too. Call it unrecognizable Weather: boiling snow sidling Gilt cloudbanks; a beetle-back sky; Nacre-gnarled écorchés of ought And nought air; all caught in the thought That we were the God and the goat, Once strangers, now just strange, and bound By the songs of Heaven and wound That wing out from our one shared throat.
Apollo: season three
In the span of a summer I grew half a foot. My feet grew, too. My mind learned delicious. The ground leaned against a deciduous forest. First I called it tree. Then I called it delicious. Delicious said, “Tell Shaggy, Fred, Thelma, and Scoob To come find me. My name is Daphne.” But I broke Daphne’s arm instead. It was a cruelty I first tried to blame on nature. Then on growing up, on falling off, on it being Just an old myth. But the world would have none of it And cancelled me after season three. Say it straight, say it straight, the crickets chanted. Change your name, change your name, the arroba urged. But the great god of poetry was at a loss for words And fell back into his habit of speaking in the third person. He’s always trended more accessible this way.
Used by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. All rights reserved. “Apollo and Marsyas” and “The God and the Goat” from HEAVEN: POEMS by Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Copyright © 2015 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips. “Apollo: Season Three” from THE GROUND by Rowan Richard Phillips. Copyright © 2012 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips.
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