Homeric Hymn to Demophoon

by Sonya Taaffe

Even at the Mysteries, he could never get warm,
crowded into the dark with the kist and the serpent,
the smart of pennyroyal on his tongue like a word
he had forgotten to say. Like a frostline in the soil,
the plunge of a colder sea . . . The sun silvered his hair
like olive leaves, the dry months burnt him browner
than Attic earth; the thin snows fell on Parnes
and he shivered even in the white arms of his bride,
the barley-plaited girl who sang round the well-head
like his elder sisters so long ago, the fallow year
a wanderer sowed blessings in the Eleusinian fields
and burnished him with her touch, an archaic mask
of gold. Like the daimon of his house, the glittering
awn, and still the old nightmare flickered up in him
at an ember's breath: the fire that smelt of incense,
the shapes falling like a handful of tears, of poppies
and mare's tails, of a girl's face and stalks of corn
that glowed like scepters in the unwithering flames.
He had rested so soundly in her old woman's arms,
his child's length measured in her lap. The hall
in the shadows that leapt like stooks, the sparks
chaff-tumbling up about them, threshings of godhead,
her seedhead crown. And his mother's hands dragging him
like a brand from the cinders, blackened, beaten out:
cold running in his veins like time. Yet imperishable
honor will be on him always.
A garland of myrtle
at a hero's tomb, the north wind and the autumn rain
like aulos and kithara for the stitching of songs
he would shatter to the winds if his wife's arms
would warm him, his children's bones not shine
like a killing frost, if he could wake a serf,
a slave, memoryless as a ghost, the king's tall son
and fair as harvest, goddess-dandled, lucky, lost.

Sonya Taaffe has a confirmed addiction to myth, folklore, and dead languages. Poems and short stories of hers have won the Rhysling Award, been shortlisted for the SLF Fountain Award and the Dwarf Stars Award, and been reprinted in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, The Best of Not One of Us, and Trochu divné kusy 3. A selection of her work can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books). She holds master's degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale and earlier this year named a Kuiper belt object.

What creature or landmark or place would appear for her in Neverland? Sonya says: "A drowned forest, inhabited by dryads of kelp."

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