At a Standstill

By Donna L. Emerson

(An ekphrastic response to “Daphne and Apollo” by Gian Lorenzo Bernini)


My fingers reach into their own leaves.

A thin bark creeps up my hip

where proud Apollo reaches for me

to bind me close—never to be!


He will only touch the tree of me.

My laurus nobilis will force

his retreat at last—my toes stuck

in soil, I command new height.


His startled eyes see our tragedy.

Encircling leaves will soon hide

my face from his panting—

Let him smell my pungent


eternity as he tends me.

Let him inhale what he cannot

have. I will form his crown

and never die!



Donna L. Emerson is a college instructor, licensed clinical social worker, photographer, and writer of poetry and prose. Her publications include Alembic, CQ (California Quarterly), Eclipse, Fourth River, Fox Cry Review, The Los Angeles Review, New Ohio Review, Paterson Literary Review, Praxis: Gender & Cultural Critiques (formerly Phoebe), Sanskrit, The Schuykill Valley Journal, Soundings East, So To Speak, and The South Carolina Review.

Her work has received numerous prizes and awards including the Labyrinth Society (2005), California State Poetry Society (2008), Tiny Lights (flash prizes, 2007, 2010), Naugatuck River Review (2010), and the Redwood Writers (2010). Her second chapbook, Body Rhymes, which was nominated for a California Book Award, and third chapbook, Wild Mercy, were published by Finishing Line Press in June 2009 and September 2011. Her work can also be seen in anthologies such as Keeping Time: 150 Years of Journal Writing (Passager Press), A Bird in the Hand: Risk and Flight (Outrider Press), Chopin with Cherries, A Tribute in Verse (Moonrise Press), and The Place that Inhabits Us: Poems of the San Francisco Bay Watershed (Sixteen Rivers).

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