“Azaleas,” Albert Joseph Moore, circa 1868, WikiArt.

Part 2: Rheta, Tree-Enchanted Child

Flowing streams, stood single apricot tree,
Rheta’s mother found her daughter. “This
Is her, I know.” Oddly shaped, thin wind-
Waving branches grew upward from slender
Trunk, semblance of hair. Shoulder high,
Two branches, elbow bent, finger-twigs
Blossoming. Within dark-fluted trunk, Rheta’s
Face bark-grimaced, eyes blinking, frowning
Lips, then all perceived vanished, except for
Small voice outward straining, “Mother it is
I,” arms waving in gentle, morning breeze.

As priestess of Delphale, I, Thessala, knew
Rheta’s parents thoughts, whether to curse
Or to proclaim goddess for transforming,
Saving their child, plummeting waterfall
Heights. Instead we adorned their tree-
Daughter’s branches with fillets bright
And long. Upon nearby standing stone,
We anointed with wine and oil, of such
I decreed holy altar of Delphale, idyllic
Stream-side place of prayerful praise.

Alas! Amidst our prayers, beckoned we
Were to our village, elder woman, who
Took no more nourishment, passed away.
Before linen draped, I looked upon her,
Frail-thin, Argia appeared as sleeping
Skeleton, transparent skin, death-clinging
Agéd bones. By our hands, her body was
Oil consecrated, linen bound, first ceremony
Of Delphale, we committed Argia’s body
To depths of roaring waterfalls, her life
Honoured, goddess Delphale glorified.

“The Prioress’ Tale,” Edward Burne-Jones, WikiArt.

Upon island rocks, Delphale appeared as
Argia in her youth, in awed reverence we
Bowed, amongst us she shimmered, so
Touched by radiant light. “We are all naked
Before divinity, paupers to deific wisdom,
I am one of many,” her voice so resonated,
Choir singing to our ears. As priestess to
Delphale, I felt her blessings for Argia and
Family, her thoughts for young Rheta. On
Delphale’s next visit, another death required,
She would release tree-enchanted child.

Heart and mind are gates, open or closed; praise the dead, and dead
shall offer praise in return. How will Delphale release Rheta from
apricot tree? Thanks for reading.

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