Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2023  Vol. 21  No.3
an online journal of literature and the arts
 print preview


A minor goddess married a man because she wanted to leave
Olympia. It bored her. She would never be the most beautiful,

and beauty was her only gift. That and the way she could conjure
a garden out of nothing as if the flowers grew just to look upon

her dark face. While she was still a girl, she plotted her escape.
She married the first mortal who brought her gifts and bowed

before her great beauty. She didn’t want to marry a god.
She needed to be better than everyone around her. She needed

to be admired. The couple had a daughter in a futile attempt
to revive the love they felt in their early days together—

that’s how most children are born. Soon, the goddess’ brother
visited, god of light, god of the sun. He looked at his sister’s child.

A scrawny baby with flame red hair and one eyelash.
He was cruel but knew how to hide his meanness.

For amusement, he set out to claim this girl as his own.
He didn’t want to raise her. He just wanted her

to adore him which is to say he wanted to control her mind.
He knew the girl wasn’t vain like her mother. The way

to her heart wasn’t flattery. He had to appeal to her soul.
He read her poetry about a dead groundhog. He brought her

to Roman ruins and the tombs of dead children. He wept
with her when she mourned. He showed her the rose windows

of Saint Chapelle and Turner’s terrible sunsets. He brought her
to place stones on the graves of Beckett and Sartre. He put wine

to her lips and made her drink. He whispered that she would
always understand the suffering of the world. And when she was

wholly his, he abandoned her. And she was alone with her horrible
visions and no way to stop them. Her parents looked at her

and didn’t know who she was. But they knew she was not theirs
so they did not pity her in her sorrow. Her uncle had gotten

what he wanted—to destroy the family which to him
was just another lie. He still watches them all from the wings.

The way they cannot speak to their own daughter. How they sit
at the long wooden table that her mother brought from Olympus,

a wedding gift from her father. How through the long meals,
the only thing they can discuss is the way the food tastes.

They try to clean their plates covered in fruit that is fading.
Fruit that has long since lost its sweetness.  

return to top