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Apollo Strikes Back

[Please read the note at the end.]     [1]

On the road to youthful promise stood a child who did not know
of what the future would entice him with and what the past had meant.
He believes that what had happened has a purpose far beyond him,
that the monarch of the darkness walked beside him as he went.
Behind each tree there lurked a stranger, hands of ice and eyes of fire,
who would take what he believed was his and left an empty shell.
And so the children walk this earth avoiding trees and all their shades
on shameful roads into the belly of their Hell.

But let us not forget all those leaf-bound winding ways
through the dark, foreboding forests of our darkest odyssey
where the ghouls and the daemons of the child’s unblinking eye
forever lurk with poisoned hands behind each face-contorted tree,
where between the sun’s retiring to the house of single shadows
and the speckled rising of the long, revealing-all unknown
all things that would perish perish here at the foot
of the bed, of the nightmare’s fatal throne.

It should not Sorrow be that for him holds fast the lids,
nor Fear replacing fears for fear of calling out its name,
of the feigned familiar faces living out their lives in secrets
on the clover-covered sheets when his six small winters came.
In truth nothing dies here at the edge of reason’s tolerance,
in truth nothing lies here but the broken and the scarred:
in this bitumen of love’s dark secretion all will walk again
like zombies in their shadows through the ’yard.

If Deus est mirabilis in suis operibus,    [2]
where was God when his miracles were dragged into the loam?
All alone they faced the Devil in the labyrinth of lust without
the benefit of Ariadne’s thread to lead them home.     [3]
They sacrificed the child, both God of good and God of ill:
only one attempts to wash his hands of guilt and his disgrace.
What sort of God are you who hides from your responsibility?
You never have to look into their face.

Time has come when the beast prowls the margins of our thought
with the acid of his eyes feigning tears of empathy:
it’s the beast who knows us all in our moment of exposure,
who will feed upon those deepest fears wherever they may be.
The dead will walk from now until their pasts have all be purged,
for they feed upon new flesh as they repeat the gruesome deed.
We unsanctify this moment as we hold them all as guilty
without ever understanding what they need.

Apollo raised his head and said, “This isn’t meant to be.
Who will care for my children when the darkness is at hand?
Let us arm all our young with the jewels of self-empowerment,
which adults have denied them and which tragically are banned.”
How we cripple all our children with the canon of obedience,
we hand the daemon power, then protest we’re not to blame!
So we burn all our babes on a pyre of self-protection
as we cower in the shadow of the flame.

O, let me live again without the beast that has no future
and the children without dread of the dragon’s fearful fire
and the young without the dead who are fast upon their heels,
who consume the souls of anyone the dead and dying desire.
So let us walk again, even though the light is fading
and the time is ripe for any who would fall into the spell.
Give us strength, give us freedom from the menace that surrounds us;
let there never be another tale to tell.

(1982, 2007)

Note: This poem is about child sexual abuse. I specifically chose a classical rhythm-and-rhyme format because I wanted to be much more gentle with the reader, who in some situations may already find the subject matter somewhat disquieting.
[1] I selected Apollo because he was both a youthful god and because of his character. While being the god of prophecy, archery and music, he also is connected with healing. (Indeed, his son Asclepius himself became the god of medicine and healing.)
[2] Deus est mirabilis in suis operibus: although I am an atheist (or perhaps because of it), I am humoured by the Catholic phrase of praise given at the birth of a new-born child – ‘God is wonderful in his works!’ – despite the commonplace of it. The sense of wonder is echoed in a following word ‘miracle’ which shares the same root, mira-, and literally means ‘a little wonder’.
[3] Ariadne, daughter of Pasiphae and the Knossal King Minos of Crete, gave Theseus a skein of thread to help him escape the Labyrinth after fighting with the Minotaur.

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