Monday, October 11, 2010

The Cherry Laurel

The women who would gather in the vale
chewed cherry laurel leaves; when the poison
took hold and ushered them into frenzy,
they would see the vale was a hovering
of matter, a glittering haze; the earth
their bare feet danced on, and that had brought forth
everything around them, would -- if they
threw off the names they had used for themselves --
begin to reveal to them what there was
of eternity in the world.
                                            The vale
could open into a being, human,
yet other, whose name was a limitless,
pure embrace in an instant with no end;
then could close again and be a chaos
of innumerable identities
interspersed with abyss upon abyss.
It could pour blind currents of life, of death,
through the women's living skulls, and plunge them
into metamorphoses -- so they might
suddenly know more than any mortal,
having become the vale itself, knowing.
Some would never return from such knowing,
and collapse and die. But others would now
be called Daphne, the name for the laurel,
and be priestesses.
                                   The light of the vale
is in love with those frenzied ones -- the rays
sent as from Apollo still following
the woman who ran from him and escaped
when she was changed into a tree; the fate
of even Apollo's love is held here
in the laurel branches. Here, your own fate,
though you do not know that fate, pours through you,
while the light, the vegetation, and rock,
so bright, so mysteriously exact,
are a moving stillness, about to speak.

Vale of Tempe

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