Galatea
Elizabeth Daniel

I.

I have spent the last seasons of my memory here beneath the olive trees, singing Psyche’s song of abandonment to the water. The creeping moss has been my lover, pressing
its tiny roots into my veins, clinging to my hair with its greeny tendrils, enfolding me like a living robe.
Sleep, it whispers.
The garden is empty now, but it hasn’t always been that way. Long ago the giants came to bathe in the rich mud, long ago they ripped the beating sweetness from my bones and poured teeming masses of writhing, flame-colored fish into water that is now so still. Long ago, I saw pillars of living, growing wood race to brush the contours of the sky, long ago I felt the earth well with salty tears that washed my ankles as I clung to my mother.
Unnumbered visions of the past have tread the soil that my feet have never touched.

II.

I had another love once, once a man touched me: once.
He dragged my flesh from its seamless home, he traced my lips with his firm, mobile fingers, he caressed my white hand with adulation in his eyes and nameless things singing in the rough ridges of his skin.
So I was born, naked and proud and beloved, but not loved.
Art, he called me.
Ego sum mutus.
With one word, one sound, one breath, I am bound. I am Galatea.
I spent days with him, months, years. Our courtship passed in the language of expectantly exchanged glances and noiseless conversations; he could not tear his eyes from me, nor could I tear mine from him—I thought if I could touch him once, just once more, the warmth of his body would spread to mine and I would be able to run to him and caress him as he had caressed me once. I tried. Many times I tried to reach out, to put my hand on his shoulder or stroke the dark hair that clung to his brow. I tried to tell him, I tried to.
Come to me, hold me as you did once and I will die in my mortal flesh with you.
But alas, I could not.
I could not, and he only loved me that once: just once.
I wanted to go with him as he walked away, but my place has always been here with the water and the olive trees, where he brought me when I first became Galatea. I belong here.

III.

The world seems quiet to me now.
It is lonely in this little place, with no one to spread their wishes out along the rivulet, no one to sit with me in the shade. I cannot hear the birdsong anymore, nor can I listen to the whipping branches or the sighing of the water. I am deaf to everything.
I can feel the wind biting my knees. One day I will not be able to stand, one day my wasted form will at last collapse under the weight of my rigid viscera. I will crumble, I will fall, and at last I will sink back into the earth.