after Nonnus 

Horned child, double-born into risk, guarded

by satyrs, centaurs, raised

by the nymphs of Nysa, by the Hyades:

here he was, the toddler, Dionysus.

He cried ‘Daddy!’ stretching up to the sky, and he was right

and clever, because the sky was Zeus

his father, reaching down. 


As he grew, he learnt to flit through other forms;

he’d become a newborn kid, shivering in the corner,

his soft pink skin suddenly the pelt of a goat

and the goat bleating, his hands and feet

now taking their first steps on tottering hooves. 


As a grown boy, he would show himself

as a girl, in saffron robes and veils,

moulding his hips

to the coil of a woman’s body,

shaping his lips to speak in a woman’s voice.


At nine he started to hunt.

He could match the jink

of a coursing hare, reach down at speed

and trip it over; chase alongside a young buck and just

lift it from the running ground

and swing it over his shoulder. 


He tamed the wild beasts, just by talking,

and they knelt to be petted, harnessed in.

By his boyhood’s end he was dressing in their skins:

the tiger’s tree-line stripe, the fallow deer speckled

like a fall of stars,

the pricked ears of the lynx.


One day he came upon a maddened she-bear

and reached out his right hand to her snout

and put his white fingers to her mouth, her teeth,

his fingers gentle at the bristled jaw,

which slackened

and drew in a huge breath

covering the hand of Dionysus with kisses,

wet, coarse, heavy kisses. 

from Hill of Doors