I Too Was Loved By Daphne

Daphne was known within these doors
And to these streets. Lovely her humor and lovely her smile
We tear our garments and sit on low boxes
Let's see who can sing the best story.

Amaryllis
I will praise as best I can
Taking my turn to raise our Daphne up
Among the stars, Daphne shall be high
Among the stars; I too was loved by Daphne.

Lycoris
Morning coffee bitter and milky with gossip.
Our mothers still offering worried apposite
Instructions. We'd gather the awful scraps 
At the kitchen table and smooth them flat.   

Cytheris
Why do I care that she was still beautiful
Yesterday in this last photo—Daphne's pearly skin 
And delicate frozen face tilting up between 
Her boy and girl, between her next-to-last and last breath.

Delia
One autumn hayride into the apple picking orchard
We locked shoulders, bowed our heads in talk, then heard
Calling, weeping in the dappling light. Left behind, 
Our little boys were searching for us hand in hand.

Nysa
Who was there when Daphne's hands stopped
Closing? Where was fate when Daphne's tongue
Thickened and set in her mouth. Or the breezes
When Daphne's  muscles no longer moved her lungs?

Phyllis
Mornings on the Palisade greenway, the path
A jumble of undergrowth and branches and glass,
We walked and talked and thought, but it wasn't true,
That my life was closing down and hers was blazing anew.

Related Poems

The Garden

How vainly men themselves amaze 
To win the palm, the oak, or bays; 
And their uncessant labors see 
Crowned from some single herb or tree, 
Whose short and narrow-vergèd shade 
Does prudently their toils upbraid; 
While all the flowers and trees do close 
To weave the garlands of repose. 

Fair Quiet, have I found thee here, 
And Innocence, thy sister dear! 
Mistaken long, I sought you then 
In busy companies of men: 
Your sacred plants, if here below, 
Only among the plants will grow; 
Society is all but rude, 
To this delicious solitude. 

No white nor red was ever seen 
So amorous as this lovely green; 
Fond lovers, cruel as their flame, 
Cut in these trees their mistress' name. 
Little, alas, they know or heed, 
How far these beauties hers exceed! 
Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I wound 
No name shall but your own be found. 

When we have run our passion's heat, 
Love hither makes his best retreat: 
The gods who mortal beauty chase, 
Still in a tree did end their race. 
Apollo hunted Daphne so, 
Only that she might laurel grow, 
And Pan did after Syrinx speed, 
Not as a nymph, but for a reed. 

What wondrous life is this I lead! 
Ripe apples drop about my head; 
The luscious clusters of the vine 
Upon my mouth do crush their wine; 
The nectarine and curious peach 
Into my hands themselves do reach; 
Stumbling on melons as I pass, 
Insnared with flowers, I fall on grass.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less, 
Withdraws into its happiness: 
The mind, that ocean where each kind 
Does straight its own resemblance find; 
Yet it creates, transcending these, 
Far other worlds, and other seas; 
Annihilating all that's made 
To a green thought in a green shade. 

Here at the fountain's sliding foot, 
Or at some fruit-tree's mossy root, 
Casting the body's vest aside, 
My soul into the boughs does glide: 
There like a bird it sits and sings, 
Then whets and combs its silver wings; 
And, till prepared for longer flight, 
Waves in its plumes the various light. 

Such was that happy garden-state, 
While man there walked without a mate: 
After a place so pure and sweet, 
What other help could yet be meet! 
But 'twas beyond a mortal's share 
To wander solitary there: 
Two paradises 'twere in one 
To live in Paradise alone. 

How well the skillful gard'ner drew 
Of flowers and herbs this dial new; 
Where from above the milder sun 
Does through a fragrant zodiac run; 
And, as it works, th' industrious bee 
Computes its time as well as we. 
How could such sweet and wholesome hours 
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!