Philemon and Baucis

The wonder isn’t the gods’ appearance,
nor their beggarly disguises.  Zeus 

and Hermes love the earth—olive oil, 
gullible women, the substantiality of marble, 

that peculiar human failing of caring 
too much.  It’s the old couple themselves, 

the way they welcome the strangers, 
give up their stools, offer them wine 

and apricots, stoke the fire, how they touch 
each other’s shoulders. They gasp 

when the wineskins refill themselves. 
In the sudden light they kneel 

before their guests, gold peeking
from beneath the rags, feel the dizzying

closeness of divinity.  When the gods
grant one wish to repay their hospitality, 

the wonder is what the couple 
passes up - a wooden floor, new cook 

pot, lifetime supply of firewood, 
fleece-lined cloaks, the child 

they never conceived. Instead 
they ask only not to outlive 

one another. It’s the gods’ turn 
to gape. When the time comes, 

the couple feels the forest taking them. 
Sap rises, fingers send out leaf shoots, 

bark creeps up, closes over their mouths, 
but not before Farewell love

overheard by hushed birds and caught 
in the cleaved air, linden and oak 

now a single trunk, entwined.

by David Sloan

This poem first appeared in a collection called The Irresistible In-Between,  
published in May 2013 by Deerbrook Editions.


  1. Very fine. Thanks for writing it.

  2. Breathtaking, in the physical sense absolutely. My husband and I too have love and would wish the same.
    Thank you.


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