Yearning for the Birth of Athena

A rewrite of an earlier draft of a much older story. Probably goes at the end of the Nuremberg 2027 section of Vagabonding (my next poetry book). If it makes the cut…

This is a poem about those times you have been crouching under a worktable re-reading The Odyssey (Emily Wilson translation), trying to ignore the bad upon worse news while yearning for some mother-fucking eagles to swoop down and tear out some mother-fucking faces, pre-journey Telemachus-style—but you know much of art and religion is just one, long imagining of unattainable justice in (and beyond) an unjust world, and a blinding one that promotes false faith at that. It’s useful when it gets you out of a bad situation (trust in God and get on a plane). But then you put it away like a security blanket and face facts.

There will be no eagles. Only books and tables, and coming back out from under them to vagabond, relax, see so many gorgeous palaces and cathedrals that you’re all cathedralled out for a while, and accidentally discover Virgo Lactans—paintings of Mother Mary squirting milk on baby Jesus, [your favorite monk or benefactor here], and the flames on the poor souls in purgatory. With the help of baby Jesus, who aims.

So at least not all art is fantasy about over-coming powerlessness. Some art is fantasy about magical breast-milk. Which I guess is a male fantasy about over-coming the powerlessness of not being able to lactate, by getting to direct the lactation. Hmm.

In any case, I guess you could say this is a poem about not waiting for a hero, even one who defies normal gender roles to the extent that she’s born war-ready from the wrong end of the wrong gender. Athena has it all; but we don’t have Athena.

Oils on 40 x 50 cm stretched canvas, 2016 or so, web store.

“Yearning for the Birth of Athena”

You know how it is when
you lay with the goddess
of lulz and wisdom,
and have second thoughts.

So you swallow the bitch—
the available plan B.
But instead of dying,
she’s splitting your skull.

Or it feels that way.
So you have your closest friends
open your head with an axe.
We’ve all been there.

The fully armored, battle-crying
goddess leaping out. The mind of god
becoming woman
with a shout.


Now where’s pregnant Zeus,
when we need him most?
Why are the fighting, fucking, meddling gods
waiting to jump in and save the coast?

Did they get distracted
by their social media stats?
Are they working their second jobs?
Are they busy watching cats?

Or did we anger them so much
that they left for good this time?
Never again to grant a foolish wish for golden touch?
Nor to settle injustice itself—instead of crime?

Stop waiting for your hero
to pop out of some pompous dude.
Or the chances will be zero
that we’re anything but screwed.