Wind the Labyrinth

Begin with Ariadne’s ball of thread

You walk upon the bones of those
Who passed this way before
You roll the bones

You turn the game-show wheel of fortune

Each twisting path is all the same
You spin and spin and spin and spin
How often have you spun this way before?

Sweat stings and it’s so hot in here
A gadfly or a whip-cut?

Staccato dance
Surrounded yet alone

Shadow puppets
Who pulls your strings?

Wash the fleece and card the fleece
And draft the roving into strips
You spin and spin and spin and spin
How easily wool fiber snaps
How strong once spun to thread

Ariadne’s ball of thread
A ripe apple’s like in size
They tried to bury us
They didn’t know we’re seeds

A cross, four curves, four dots
Join each to each around and round
Two lines, one black, one red
The labyrinth winds back and forth
A spiral
A mirror at the center
Who are you?

Sponsored for publication by Elizabeth Barrette in barter for her poem “Until the Restoration

Athena Agon Entry 2

“Hard Lessons”
Jennifer Lawrence
© 2008

There are certain things I am not smart enough to
Figure out the first time, Gray-eyed lady;
Basic, elemental lessons that must be repeated many times
Before they sink into my thick and insensate skull:
Don’t go near crazy on the Internet,
Because you’ll get it all over you and it’ll never wash off;
You can’t help a rabid dog, and if you try,
It’ll only bite you, no matter how much you feel its pain;
What a person says isn’t always a good indication
Of what he does, and only what he does is a sign of what he does;
Fool me once, shame on you, and fool me twice—or thrice, or ten times,
Or a hundred—shame on me for being a fucking moron.

There’s wisdom that doesn’t come in books,
Only in getting kicked in the gut
Or in someone spitting in your face
Or people you once considered friends
Now laughing at everything you hold dear.
Ugly lessons, hard lessons, but valuable nonetheless.
Lady of wise counsel, Ageleia, Alcis, Amboulia, Paiônia, Soteira:
Protect me from my own stupidity.
Give me the strength not to turn away from these lessons I need to learn,
No matter how much they may hurt,
And heal the wounds my heart may feel
If and when I fail to learn from them again.

Athena Agon Entry 1

“Arachne Pending”
Shannon Connor Winward

Sticky cords spun around my wrists
and throat     wrapped

stuck
in the threads of the Weaver.

Her web a warm, snug prison
every time the wind blows, I sway.

It will all be
okay.

I am dancing
above the ground

my body pulses,     silk
gestating in my belly

pain is invisible     perfect
seeping from my

chastened fingers, humbled joints
blessed even to tie a knot

let alone a symphony, touch
a blade of grass

a telephone pole
waiting

to tell you I understand now
Lady     what beauty is.

This poem first appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer.

Sonnet to Athena Alea (that is, Athena Escape-to-Refuge)

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Athena shouts, Her lightning torch aflame
In tarnished-copper green on New York shore.
Escape-to-Refuge is always Her name.
It matters not to Her from where you come;
What God, if any, you might answer to;
What talents, wealth, or skills you bring with you.
She cares that you are safe here; don’t succumb
To tempest tossing you and yours around,
Or rich men saying you are less than they,
More fearsome, and they’d rather you had drowned
Than found this world-wide welcome, found your way.
Come, weary one, whose journey’s at its end.
Be welcome, stranger, who might yet be a friend.

(hat tip Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”)

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To Hestia the Giving, or, What Hill to Die On

It seems so strange for me to say
I am alone on Christmas Day.
I must delay my gift exchange
till evening. And till then I pray:

Bright Hestia, am I alone?
Please say I’m not, please say You’re here,
in electric candle if not hearth stone.
O Giving One, please say You’re near.

Christmastime is a time of giving,
a time for family, time for living
our most central values—though
there are many who’ll say no,

we are not who we are,
we must be as they will,
even as they also say
that we must follow our own star,
and we’ll die someday—choose a hill.

Well, this is mine, so home I’m not,
though my sisters come tonight,
to the place that any other day
I call my home, by my invite.

Bright Hestia, are You here?
Where no flame burns, no incense lit,
for fear another asthma fit?
Where the altar-keeper’s queer?

Usually I do not doubt
that You care for me as I am.
But after my family’s fallout—

Well, goddamn.

Family, home together tied—
I can’t take this all in stride—

Bright Hestia, please say You’re here.
O Giving One, please say You’re near.

My Armor

My armor is defiance.
My armor is just spite.
My armor is the promise
that one of these tomorrows
things will be all right.
My armor is a bumper sticker
says I’m queer and #ImWithHer.
My armor is a painted target,
but it fits me snug and tight.

I pray Athena will defend me,
and all my people too,
that She Who Girds With Armor
has armor that fits you.

My armor is a pendant
shaped like a dragon’s wing.
My armor is amethyst,
one bead on one earring.
My armor is a pendant
shaped like a double axe.
My armor is gardenia scent
and knowing all the facts.

I was a women’s studies student,
and writing is my passion.
I don’t know all, but I do know
it’s time to set a fashion:
write with courage and with honor.
It’s time to change the narrative.
“Diversify respectfully”‘s
my writing imperative.
I have no other weapons.
I have no other arms.
I have no other way to fight back,
to answer these alarms.

I pray Athena will defend me,
and all my people too,
you trans ones, you disabled,
you queers, you women, you
brave people of color, you religious
minorities. All of you are scared
and I can’t say I’m not,
but She Who Girds With Armor
has our backs, and that’s a lot.

My armor is defiance.
My armor is just spite.
My armor is the words I need
to make it through the night.
And She girds me with this armor,
and tonight, at least, I live.
Stay strong, all my people,
stay brave, stay combative.
You live. You live. You live.