The Song of Syrinx by Bethany W Pope

The Song of Syrinx

Once, the Great God Pan fell in love with a nymph.
Running to meet her (she was slender as a reed,
Goddamned beautiful) lust rose in him with great force.
Fleeing from his own desire, he hid. The song
Death sings can sound an awful lot like sex.
Cut down by carnality he crouched in a shrub, pithed.

‘Cut the stems at an angle to preserve the reeds.’
Once she learned the knack, mother sent her alone. A song
Death made for her played in her blood, pervading her pith.
Running by the riverbank, she never thought of sex;
Fleeing the lovers her mind made up. The force
God gave to love is too much for man, woman, or nymph.

Gods aren’t good at staying out of sight. Songs
Cut off mid-note when they reveal themselves. Her sex
Flees from aggression; and Pan is ugly to nymphs.
Once he saw she would not have him, he tried force.
Running fast, tongue out, panting, his penis straight as a pith,
Death (of a kind) in his eyes, he crashed through the reeds.

‘Death’s coming for me, Papa, or unwanted sex.’
Gods can be fathers – hers ruled the river. Force
Ran through him like the current. Even a reed,
Cut off from the root, would blossom for him. A pith,
Once touched, became a wand. He struck her with it. Nymph
Fled from her form. She grew leaves, shifted with a song.

Fleeing to the tide, Pan thought, wont halt my force.
Death itself would fail to stop me. I can’t be pithed.
Once he had scoured the river-muck, he began a new song.
Gods have certain powers. This chant was made to find a nymph.
Cut off from her old form, this new-made reed
Ran with light. Her leaves glowed golden, revealing her sex.

Running to her, raging and thwarted, Pan pulled out her pith.
Fleeing the rage of the River-God, he stole the dead nymph.
Cut off from her roots, heart-hollowed, useless for sex,
Death seemed to win – but Pan had a plan for the reed.
Gods can bring beauty from sorrow, make pain into songs.
Once, Pan blew into a reed. The sweet music was forced.

Not even Gods can run from Death. A nymph did, once.
She fled from forced sex, became a reed. She sang – pithed.


*This is a mirrored sestina.

Bethany W Pope is an award-winning writer who has published several collections of poetry: A Radiance (Cultured Llama, 2012), Crown of Thorns, (Oneiros Books, 2013), The Gospel of Flies (Writing Knights Press 2014), and Undisturbed Circles (Lapwing, 2014). Her first novel, Masque, shall be published by Seren in 2016.


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