Marsyas, poem by Jenna Le (Mythic Poetry Series)

Silver Birch Press

by Jenna Le

Marsyas: was he a faun? a satyr?
From our vantage point, centuries later,
his ethnic background doesn’t matter;
what counts is, he was brutally slain.
Vietnamese or Jewish, satyr or faun,
no one lives this kind of horror down.

A gentle outdoors-loving musician,
he was killed in the open, in a Phrygian
forest. With surgical precision,
his murderer peeled his skin off in thin strips
while Marsyas howled through whitened lips.
All day: his howls and the cracks of whips.

Each morning, I show up at my job,
wearing like a fancy watch-fob
my stethoscope. At times, I’d like to drop
the heavy thing on the ground and sputter,
“Apollo, patron god of doctors,
deity to whom we pray, ‘Save us from slaughter,

protect us from disease’! How could you
be he to whom we pray for tidings good, you
who tortured Marsyas in the Phrygian…

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