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after Elise Matthesen

He should be ice in a northern garden,

a moss-flanked marble whose fingers cling

as stilly to his flute-stops as last night's rain

between the bowing heads of roses,

sheltered forever by a symbolist's afternoon

from November and the winter's stripping chill,

yet here he lounges in an abstract of boxwood

and holly, under a slate-lid sky,

the black of his pelt like the soft lees of Setinum,

his horns as sweetly whorled as pinecones,

a gold annealing in the slots of his eyes.

His throat like oiled olive, his warm arms smell

not of rut and vinegar, but resin and stillness

disturbed, the hot light filtering on the beeches

and river-veins, the muddied onyx

of one hoof jinks: and if I cry

ὁ μέγας Πὰν τέθνηκεν, he will fall

like the curvetting of aspen leaves, to plain air,

the piper at the gates of sunset,

a wind-topped, tuneless reed.

But if it sang out true from Paxi to Palodes,

mourning, exultant —that voice of dying gods—

who haunts my path like a heart's missed beat,

holm-oak, stone pine, the dark stelae of cypress

glimpsed out of shot from clipped corners of yew,

whose wordless mouth reels modes of ivy in?

The little wind frets the hedges in their fading,

bellies a spider's shell-strung caul: a sibyl.

The faun in the summer of the world smiles,

too late to uninvoke, growing home.




Sonya Taaffe's short fiction and poetry can be found in the collections Ghost Signs (Aqueduct Press), A Mayse-Bikhl (Papaveria Press), Postcards from the Province of Hyphens (Prime Books), and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books), and in various anthologies including The Humanity of Monsters, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, and Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror. She holds master's degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and once named a Kuiper belt object. She lives in Somerville with her husband and two cats.
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