Our Friday Poem this week is ‘Her to Apollo’ by Carol Rumens from her latest collection, Animal People.
‘The title, ‘Her to Apollo’, contains a pun on Hymn to Apollo. I don’t have a particular Hymn in mind; it’s simply an allusion the classical genre. I wanted to signal a feminist ‘take’ on the theme. The speaker is a woman addressing the Sun God as her lover, though with no great reverence towards him.’ says Carol Rumens.
A power struggle sits at the heart of this poem, the spiky female voice biting back against the god figure’s assumed importance. Their dialogue, hard and violent in nature, breaks apart the classical base of the poem, and so although it opens with a mythological premise, ‘Her to Apollo’ instead turns out to be a sort of modern morality tale.
Her to Apollo
I fall in love and sunbathe less these days –
I must be old, the bark-legged woman says.
Stuff your Olympics. I’ll be in my black,
pissing on you, Apollo. But the star
that spikes earth’s drinks and rapes her slow, sings back,
my face is all you got, bitch, all you are.
The woman spreads her thighs. Such green light beckons,
and gods, however cracked, must claim their tokens
from flesh that knows it’s trees and cloud and slate,
and not too tall to stretch a prayer. Gold pieces
wink in her eyes like birch-leaves, ripple out
like baby cephalopods. And still he lies,
that god – I’m all you need, I’m all you are;
your genesis, baby, and your nemesis.
He oils her richly, and turns up the power;
she’s barbecued, and calls it paradise.
Iron insouciance that dawns with love’s
self-love, and gilds earth’s have-nots into haves,
you win, she thinks, and sees next autumn scatter
the little, light-stunned faces, plain as scars,
and as unique – each leaf uniquely spoiled
by cell-death, yet each death the same. Who’ll matter?
Apollo, know yourself – you’re gas, not gold,
and one of around two-hundred billion stars.
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