Poem of the Week | July 15, 2019

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Not Your Bernini’s Daphne” by Stella Wong!

Stella Wong is a recent graduate of the M.F.A program at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. She grew up in New York City and received her English BA from Harvard. Wong is a POETRY Foundation Incubator fellow. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Colorado Review, Indiana Review, and the LA Review of Books. She is the winner of the Academy of American Poets University Prize, and the Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize judged by Danez Smith. Stella Wong was recently a finalist for Missouri Review’s 2018 Jeffrey E. Smith’s Editors’ Prize contest.


Not Your Bernini’s Daphne

After Christo + J-C’s “Wrapped Trees”, Basel, Germany

I wish I were a real tool
not Pinocchio, or

Father of god

who lies about
lying with

at his disposal.

What kind of father
has a child

and lets him run around
a tree?

If the child had a mother
figure she’d have

him human
in no time at all.

Let me be
instrumental. In this

my mother is Penelope

looming nightmares
of an unwound shroud

to mummify
the family.

I wish I were turbine,
o telekinetic superheroine.

To please
Mother, sap the ichor.

Rub Lethe’s genie
bottled with two x’s.

Tango and spar
all stars. Don’t weave

in crowns
for a hollow king.

Fuck that noise.
I destroy the nest.

Come bless your woodwind
with a mouth to speak.

I will sing out your victory.


Author’s Note

This poem is inspired by Bernini’s sculpture and Christo and Jean-Claude’s wrapped trees art installations working from ancient Greek and Roman myths. By dropping Apollo from the title, and refusing the role of Daphne, I wanted to explore the agency of a female character and voice caught in the legacy of drama that she has not created but nonetheless has found herself at the center of–and how violent language, and violent action (albeit through speech only) is necessary for the heroine to reclaim power and independence, again.