Chased (But Still Chaste) — Ed Werstein



On viewing Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso’s Panel from a Marriage Chest with Story of
Apollo and Daphne

I.
Cassone, Italian. An ornate box given
to a bride and placed in the bridal chamber
usually at the foot of the bed. Think of it
as a bridal casket, it’s purpose symbolic.
Look at this beautiful box! It is yours,
all yours, and now that you belong to me,
get in it! This box defines the limits
of your influence in the world.

II.
Apollo and Daphne, the pursuer and the pursued.
Eros, with one arrow of gold and one of lead,
engineered this little lust-versus-chastity scene.
Now he sits back and watches it play out
singing, What’s Love Got to Do With It?

III.
In the painting he is chasing her.
She is being chased and trying to remain chaste.
She appears to have her thumb raised. Is she
hoping to be picked up, by anyone but him?
When being chased by a wild animal, climb a tree.
When chased by human males or Greek gods
it’s far safer to turn into a tree.

IV.
Six thousand years of patriarchy
and we’re still seeing the same old stories.
Today, she could be any woman.
He could be the president.



***


Ed Werstein, a regional VP of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, was awarded the 2018 Lorine Niedecker Prize for Poetry by the Council For Wisconsin Writers. His work has appeared in StoneboatBlue Collar Review, Gyroscope Review, and several other publications. His new book, A Tar Pit To Dye In, is available from Kelsay Books.