Artemis Alpheia

Lupercus Pagani

The Bull of the River

Circled and splashed

His nostrils open wide

Seeking out the scent

Of Leto’s fair daughter

 

He could taste the mud

And the moss

And the fish

And the birds

But not what he desired most

 

Far-Shooter, Wearer of Hides

Stood motionless on the bank

Like the quails she had dispatched

As a young girl in the mountains

With her first golden arrows

 

Alpheios could taste the mud

And the moss

And the fish

And the birds

But not what he desired most

 

Easer of Childbirth, Tender of the Young

Stood quiet with the wet white clay

Slowly drying as Helios climbed higher

Cracking at her lips, her armpits, and

The place that Alpheios most desired

 

Fish-tailed King could taste the mud

And the moss

And the fish

And the birds

But not what he desired most

 

Killer of Niobe’s Children, Defender of Mothers

Knew she must soon make a move

Before the River God discovered her

Quiver and bow lay just in reach…

But, then, a branch snapped!

 

Alpheios turned his head

No animal was this

Not a deer

Not a boar

But what he desired most

 

Arethusa had walked all morning

Eager to bathe with Artemis

And her retinue of nymphs

She was young and pure

But not ready to wed

 

Alpheios moved closer to the sound

The pale flesh, the wide eyes

Long black hair falling to her waist

Overwhelmed by his passions

He thought this was the Goddess herself

 

Hooves turned to calloused hands

That grasped Arethusa’s thin wrists

As he knocked her to the ground

With a sweep of his spiny fins

Finally, he would have the Goddess herself!

 

Daughter of Thundering Zeus, Sister of Just Apollon

Would not allow this girl to be sacrificed

As River God’s tongue pushed into Arethusa’s mouth

He tasted only the pure water of a spring

Which then flowed into the river currents

 

The Bull of the River

Circled and splashed

His nostrils open wide

Seeking out the scent

Of the maid Arethusa

 

He followed her to the sea

Around islands

Around rocks

Around ships

Until he reached Sikelia

 

Lady of Quails, Bringer of Light

Split open the hard salty ground

And allowed fresh water to bubble up

Becoming her sacred home

Inviolate

 

The Bull of the Sea

Circled and splashed

His nostrils open wide

Seeking out the scent

Of the maid Arethusa

 

Alpheios climbed onto the Ortygian shore

Fishermen thought he was Poseidon

And feared earthquakes would follow

What had they done to anger him?

But the Bull soon left

 

White One, Saviour

Returned to the River

Without a God

And the nymphs greeted her as

Alpheia

 

 

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