The Haunting of Delphi

By Darja Malcolm-Clarke

i.
    when I saw golden-haired Leto
    coursing over land and froth
    I knew she went with my death
    nestled beneath her golden heart:

    the Far-shooter who would kill me.

    indeed, he fought me for my stone-crowned isle
    fought me for the wine-sweet paeans
        sung for me
    fought me to rename me for
    my death

    as though such a name
        Python, "I rot"
    would render my end
    absolute

    oh, true: in the sun
    I rotted
    food for insects
    hollowed to a sheath!
    so all that remained of me
    was a plaything for the breeze

    but—putrefaction
    could not exorcise me
    from Delphi

    he struck me down but I remain
    in Delphi
    he seized my land but I remain
    in Delphi
    he thought me gone but I remain

    in the fissure
    beneath his garish temple
    susurrating from below
    of things he does not know.

    a politician
    Phoebus Apollo feigns a smile
    and strums his golden lyre
    veiling his unease

    but he knows his Delphi
    suffers a haunting

ii.
    meanwhile
    a slight girl or a bent crone
    perches like a sparrow upon a tripod,
    his poppet
        he thinks
    and fruit for the plucking

    each in turn
    I tend from below,
    me the phantom breeze
        that beguiles
        and lays the cosmos bare,
    the past and future tangled
    then uncoiling
        like a serpent in her lair.

    in the pythia's palm
    I rest my spectral head
    whispering ghost words
    that hang
    like incense
    in the salt-sweet dark.

    the pythia listens
    slack-jawed, her hand
    a poppy blooming upon her knee
    and she tries to speak

    but what she hears
    words don't contain easily.

    she mutters glossolalia
    till vision takes root in word
    and she's struck
    with weird clarity of speech
    and pronounces what will be.

    it's for me
    that each girl, each crone
    casts aside the Bright One
    a refused lover
    who does not, after all,
    love her

iii.
    mortals seek my wisdom
    but Phoebus claims as his
    the felicity
    of my foresight

    he tells tall tales
    of his forced possessions,
    his false prescience

    and hides his shame
    in pretty songs, golden arrows, and light

    he tiptoes
    through his gaudy temple
    so as not to trouble
    my slumber,
    he an actor
    in his own garish play,
    and later recites loudly
    so no one hears
    the phantom
    whispering
    to him
    his lines—

    me, Python,
    coiled over darkness
    in the wings


Darja Malcolm-Clarke's work has appeared in Mythic Delirium, Dreams and Nightmares, Fantasy Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, and elsewhere; her critical work has appeared in the Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsStrange Horizons, and The New Weird.  She holds master's degrees in Folklore and in English, is an editor at a university press, and is currently revising a novel. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana where there are many thunderstorms, which suits her just fine.

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