In addition to poetry that I have actually published, I write devotional poetry. The poems on this page are for gods, not my pocket, so they’re available to read for free as long as you attribute me and don’t take them out of their devotional context. I’m mirroring them from a blog I have (which focuses on modern Greek polytheism with a strong anti-missionary bent because I’m a supporter of indigenous belief systems and rights), so if you search the Internet for one of these, that is why you see it coming up elsewhere.
To Hermes, c. 2009 or 2010
Maia gave birth to one
great rustler of mild bovine
animals, a thief
who operates under night’s
deep indigo shield.
Cunningly, he flits among
those sleepers, bringing
wandering souls in line towards
the dreamer’s wide vale:
Muse, let this brave god
receive worthy praise, renown
throughout the seven
continents, for his great work,
this walker between worlds.
Sing through me, paint stories many —
of Hermes’ exploits: recount
retell the lyre’s invention.
Such a noble god
deserves praise and sacrifice!
Hermes, please accept
humble words as your share.
Look kindly upon
your trim-ankled worshipper.
To Athene, In Apology
Strong-voiced Athene, champion of Heaven
who stands proud at the lightning-bearer’s side,
would that I could hymn you as deftly as those
psalm-paraphrasing women we read, tomes
marking out a space where women could write
without fear of their male kin’s reprisal.
Religion has always been an enclave
veiling women so we can move freely.
They wrote those devotional poems and prayed.
Long before them, women took up weaving.
Women wove and carried your sacred gifts,
garments to adore your gleaming statue.
Well-hymned Athene, in these woven words,
I come up to the image of your shrine.
Creatrix of law, codes, regulations,
and the juries that rule humans and gods,
cities weep when you show them your judgment.
Virginal and austere, you lift up ones
whom you love and cast out the offensive.
Bright-eyed Athene, Olympian, come —
pivot away the aegis on your chest!
Leave those weapons in your relations’ care.
Come, whether your attention is in courts
or governmental halls of great countries.
Come, O lover of learning and its halls,
you who hold up philosophers and grant
quick thought and cunning alongside Hermes.
Come, O Athene, to this place, accept
these words lain out at a devotee’s shrine.
II. Thoughts on Deacy’s Athena
It is night, Athene,
quiet at this shrine where your
icon stands covered in the piece I made,
blue as the harbors you protect,
gray-trimmed like your calm eyes.
swirl me about, analysis
I never knew before — it accused you,
said you had betrayed all women,
diced you into pieces.
This has occupied me,
glowing candle-steady, and now
I want to hymn you and weave other tales.
You are more than a plot device
steering along strong men.
Goddess, when I found you,
I loved you instantly and saw
you knew what being the Girl among boys
meant: making a hard shell over
unwillingly touched skin.
That takes strength, Athene.
It requires fortitude to take
battering ram words from other women.
I know how hard striking balance
in those moments can be.
It still mystifies me:
Why did those mortal women call
themselves better than you? You built cities.
To them, it made you less skillful
at the loom. Shame on them.
You protected people
like Nikandra, a weaver who
needed to feed her family with wages
she earned by spinning long hours.
That aid helped buy her bread.
That nuance explains why
criticism against you hits
sore nerves in my heart, but I keep reading
because something in there
must be fit for your shrine.
It is night, Athene,
and I offer up thoughts for you
out of a promise I made due to careless
words spoken — because you deserve
respect. It’s what you’re owed.
Three, which we
counts out three.
Three, the day
set down by
to be yours.
from what comes:
and still more.
IV. To the Foresightful, Inventive One
Mêkhanitis, from wherever you roam,
be it mountainous Olympos held dear by all,
senatorial hallways, your Athenian overlook,
or a secret place where you, done with battle,
remove that glorious armor and set down
sword and spear to wash the blood away —
come, O you who are good at strategy,
advice-giver, protector, sharp-sighted maiden,
you who govern all things according to plan.
O Aider of Girls, you instruct all in practical
measures for increasing industriousness.
You, Mêkhanitis, worked with Orion’s daughters,
and the tapestries they wove revolve in Heaven.
You, Mêkhanitis, work with all inventors,
teaching us what must be done in our crafts,
setting the power of the mind to demarcate
our creations and imbue them with skill.
To you we make libations of your sacred oil;
from you, we have the holy scent of olives
seeping into our thirsty skin, parched throats,
and tired muscles, until we become supple,
quick-bodied and quick-thinking, foresightful,
all thanks to the blessings of that first tree.
Illustrious Parthenos, you elevate souls,
soothing the body so that we may write thoughts
according to reason with smoothness in our hands.
Please, O Goddess, accept this prayer of praise.
May your favor be as sweet as the delicious,
grassy oil you have given for our benefit.
V. To Athene Mêkhanitis
The incense burns down, Athene,
on this shrine where your offerings
pile, ash over ash, in the bowl.
Mêkhanitis rolls from my tongue.
This epithet makes me think of you
alone, your luminous face glowing,
lit only by orange-red emergency
lighting on the walls of your lab.
It evokes smoke-curling images
where you draft out designs on
large papers spread across tables.
I see you building, fingers tipped
with grease, aegis facing backwards
so people are afraid to interrupt.
Women’s work has changed so much.
Wherever we work with deft hands
belongs under your wide shield.
Women streamed into factories and
offices where we typed up notes
or fed garments through machines
— always with accurate posture —
and on to other places where we
make our studios, writing desks,
law firms, and highway truck homes.
We still manage households at night,
defend ourselves from those who want
actions brushed aside and not seen,
and deal with those who would slight
our achievements as worth less.
I see you, Mêkhanitis, diligently
working until the night grows drowsy.
You watch over women who come home,
O gray-eyed one, and direct wrath
towards those who would harm us.
Women are steel-hearted and invent
ways to economize and pare down,
essentializing things that once took
all of our ancestors’ long days.
These are devotions to you, Athene,
at the shrines we call city streets,
the temples we transform from offices,
complete with desks where we offer
time and roadways where we chariot race.
Mêkhanitis, austere and finely-clad,
professional patron and guide,
you have brought me so far in my love.
What I know about wisdom, you taught me.
You have set lightning in my head,
so fast is this storm of thoughts.
I thank you for the breaths curving
my ribcage and diaphragm, the incense
I can purchase due to your favor,
and the many opportunities you grant.
The incense has burned down,
and still my hands face outward
towards the icon at your shrine.
Sometimes, it’s the fourth day of the month
When the moon is still a pale sliver in the thumb
Of blue day sky, but it’s always Herakles who gets the incense
Fired up and smoking from hissing lightning because the fourth day
Means Aphrodite, Eros, Hermes, and this god
Who some say was once a man, murdered by
Women — unintentionally.
Sometimes, on the fourth day, when I light that incense
And read his hymns, I think, what am I doing here
Because I am a feminist.
I once saw translations of the Orphic hymns online
That omitted him and Zeus both for their deeds.
Woman-Hater is one of Herakles’ epithets.
And when I knew better, that Woman-Hater means
Women could not be in his worship circles in some places,
Lighting incense on the fourth day was honestly in the same
Category as filial piety towards my father:
Bare minimum, respectful, and disengaged,
A balance of “honor your parents” and self-preservation.
I still lit that incense because who am I to break the chains of tradition
when half of the point of this is rebuilding what was lost to fifteen hundred
Years of some bureaucracy telling us we could not have goddesses
Peeking out at us from temple alcoves.
And that’s when I started digging into the deep earth,
A sacrifice of my time and effort in the chthonic
Realm where old and new scholarship meet and academics tell stories.
It’s never as simple as hate and love and I am nearly 30 and should know.
Herakles is the god of marriage worshipped alongside Hera and Hebe.
In most places women worshipped him, too.
On Kos Island, the priest dressed in women’s clothes for sacrifice
Because Herakles has done that, manly-man that he is,
And bridegrooms decked out in women’s adornments to receive their brides.
It is never so easy, love and hate.
It varies from place to place, like red states and blue.
What does it mean about us that we see how men behave
And how they take that story of Herakles’ death to demonize women
When some mythologies led to wedding rituals
And women worshipping this god freely.
Think about the narratives we teach ourselves
Because it is never that simple and sometimes the answer
Is purple-colored, like the robes of the Erinyes’ priestesses.
Patriarchy does so much, but one of those things is to make us
See the bad things in people and gods or say that
Men cross-dressed as priests to protect Herakles from women
Or that his women priestesses needed to be virgins until death
As if virginity is a yoke that means anything more than that
She has said fuck you in the profane sense of the term to all men
In favor of being her own human in the audience of god.
Perhaps it is not so odd, then, to take my lightning-lighter
On the fourth day and intone hymns softly,
Reclaiming this space that some men have said is theirs
And that real history reveals is not so clear cut.
Gods slip into the spaces that people open for them.
When I honor Herakles at my shrine,
Let him come in his guise as a womanish man.
In asana, breath moves through my chest, a bellows
igniting a bright fire to course through my body.
The Yoga Sutras refined my understanding of this.
Vikalpaḥ is the imagination of metaphor, sleek,
and it is here where the fire inside of me blooms.
Asana prepares the body through movement to turn
inward and touch the deep-radiating light.
I think of those stone holders for tea lights
carved with stars, moons, and shooting meteors,
only in my mind’s eye this is made of paper.
It is simultaneously yoga, the images on the cave
wall coming into focus, and the mirror held up
by the Titans to entrance Zagreus, whom they kill.
In asana, when I prepare my body and breathe deep,
I wonder if yoga is compatible with this imagined
world that I hold as an image against my mind’s eye
because the fire that illumines it and brings it
into focus is the center of my being turned outward —
at this garden of delights that absorb my attention.
The vividness is so strong sometimes that I drown,
engrossed in light more deeply than I am in meditation.
Is this yoga, then, to move my body in preparation
for a work that I have sworn to gods I will do,
for which I have given offerings of incense and time,
something that has brought me through highs and lows,
space to make theogony and mythology for gods I love?
It is something like yoga, to prepare in asana,
to entrance oneself in images moving through the soul.
It is something like yoga, to breathe into this fire,
controlling it just enough to keep paper from curling.
First bend your mind like a bow:
sense the aching, creaking wood,
and yield to the strength of seven
those adventurous truth-hunters.
Settle into that feeling
when you see someone in prayer,
when you hear good words on the street:
the roles you must play.
In years, repetition will make
your reason strong like the Gods.
You will follow them on paths
through deserts and rain forests.
They will leave you at the edge,
beyond which no mortal has seen.
A secret: the Gods are there, too,
and the oracle bones are in your hand.
You may know me from the sweep
of plains and the lowing animals,
cuckoos singing, nesting in baskets.
From me comes youth and discord.
From me all is born and fashioned.
From me you draw your first breath.
Look for me in the billowing white
bridal veil, the confetti of rose petals
falling on the floor, bruised underfoot.
For me you prepare wooden baskets.
For me you raise the goat’s neck to cut.
For me you scatter the sacred barley.
Build my temples from windswept
beach sand, bear icons that call me
virgin, queen of heaven, and widow.
In me flit the birds and toys of steel.
In me the electrostatic charges meet.
In me lies damnation and salvation.
Long before you worshiped me,
I gave birth: lightning passed through
me to strike primordial waters.
I am exhalation and inhalation.
I am the weight of the jungle air.
I am the humidity kissing your skin.
Know that I claim Rhea as mother,
Zeus the Thunderer as my co-ruler,
And my sons and daughters are many.
When my arms stretched high,
they came from below, the ones
with snakes shimmering in their hair.
The heavens, the underworld,
and all spaces in the cracks of existence
teeming with the reality of gods opened.
They filled the spaces within me
with the biting venom, pressing
snakes against my waiting lips.
The Birth of the Erinyes
First, a cry —
a slash in the night —
a whisper — and hissing snakes
spat venom across the sky.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
from black Nyx sleeping
in the void between the stars.
First, a cry —
a stab in the dark —
a sigh — and then silence
dripping like rain onto the Earth.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
from a scythe of cold iron.
First, a cry —
a hole among the violets —
a scream — and a marriage.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
in a bed beyond the sun, where
roots meet liquid iron
and pomegranate trees sway.
First, a cry —
teeth gnashing in the dark —
a growl — and then blood money
denied to a family in grief.
This is how the Eumenides were born:
slighted Poinê bore them in retribution.
We make our beds in the land of knives beyond the Styx among
blades so sharp they cut through flesh, sinew, and bone so our
serpents can suck on their marrow — sharp edges that slit open
throats of a hundred black lambs bleating their last while stars
screamed the mourning cry, shimmering beyond the vault of night.
We come from across the waters — dancing — reveling — entwining
live snakes in our belts and constricting our bodies in
pebble-soft anaconda skin, just as we have since the sickle
sprayed us through the night sky and we fell, naked and crying,
and landed on the creation-hot patches of red-glowing rocks.
The three of us split the ground open and burrowed like worms
deep into her belly and nurtured a hatred for the worst misdeeds.
We draw iron chariots for the broad-armed Silent King and
comfort the Lady of Sighs when she spits pomegranate bones.
High are our honors: we know who you are, all you have done,
all your dust-ground ancestors accomplished and unleashed.
Those who drip honey and leave raw wool on our altars
and those who wash sin with cake-ashes we bless and free.
Those who know the Mysteries approach us unblemished.
Flee from us if you must: we run with the owl-guarded queen
to whom Zeus himself gave highest honors among gods,
and her retinue contains a hundred ghosts and vengeful daemons.
To the Erinyes, Who Remember All
Erinyes: we pray to you because you remember.
Erinyes: we pray for understanding of the ancient
practice — how to cool your rage with sweet honey,
milk, and blood to pacify the souls you represent.
Erinyes: we pray that you, lawyers in the court of souls,
accept the price we have paid for success,
those phantasms of gold dancing in our ancestors’ eyes.
We may leave rare steak and milk at midnight,
but the memory of restless ghosts is razor-sharp.
The dead and dying remember all.
The dead and dying whisper in your heads.
The dead and dying bite at our heels.
Erinyes: give them the milk as a balm for their cut feet,
give them the rare steak to soothe their empty bellies.
May you and the dead accept our prayers.
May Persephone comb the snakes from your hair.
May you bathe in the soothing waters of Hades,
remembering always these sacrifices given,
and may we never forget the honors owed to you.
Exacters of Justice
Our ebony Erinyes have remained unyielding since
Spilled blood sprayed them across the heavens.
As babies, they played with hooded snakes.
As children, they wielded spears and swords.
As women, they now keep the peace of the dead.
Exacters of justice, like a fire they sweep through the land,
black as scorched ground, our growling night-cats.
An Offering for Hermes, February 2017
Swift-footed, apt-tongued, wily deceiver,
Hermes born between underworld and sky,
karst-haunting, way-finding, keen diviner,
you speak in the murmur of water-drops.
Liminal realms are yours in abundance:
You know what lies illumined before you,
though many miss your light fingers darting,
thieving, intercepting oracles.
You catch glimpses beyond: Fate keeps her hair
shrouded in purple, but it slips for you,
by stratagem or by design, with ease.
These cavernous places are yours, O Lord,
where water drips down through rock-pores to make
the sacred place where your mother once bathed.
Your first temple is here, shrouded in gold,
incense milling on the vaulted ceiling,
where the cradle once lay, from where you made
your first claims among the deathless on high.
I drink deep from the tortoise-shell goblets
and cleanse myself at your stalagmite gate.
In the shrine, your icon sits, bathed in rich
ambrosial droplets that send minerals
cascading down your chest and face, shooting
light in all directions from the soft light.
Here, I pray that storms will be averted,
that you will guide me, even unseeing,
over the slippery stones, beyond lies.
Here, I pray that I always find correct
decisions, not deceived by the wrong paths,
as one finds jewels hidden in glass piles.
Here, I pray that you bless my armaments:
Those elastic spaces of meaning, words,
who always shift, slide, and metamorphose.
They find their images in ink and keys,
ama-iro and amber, moon-purple,
fast-drying, secret-keeping, drawn by pen,
or clacked out for consumption in spaces
without human touch, without human speech,
changed from alphabets to ones and zeroes.
Here, I offer this poem, written in both.
O clear-eyed wanderer, friend and guide who
offers warmth in the half-cold caves below,
hear me: Protect your devotee as our
world’s bedrock rumbles and the dice roll on.