My mother, deathless Rhea,
must have loved me best;
why else endure the devouring of three daughters
and two sons
before finally deciding “Enough!”
Why not act sooner?
Cronus’ pattern, it can be said,
was clear from the very first–
or, at least, having swallowed Hestia whole,
from the second,
when he swallowed fair Demeter as well.
I never understood that, to be honest;
the prophecy was plain–
he would be overthrown by a son,
not just any child,
so why gorge his ravenous hunger
on the girl-children at all?
Unless he could not tell the difference,
and then had gotten the taste for it.
As I said, my mother must have loved me best:
not to stop those awful feasts at once,
nor simply to let me be eaten also,
and any who came after me, as well.
I never had to dangle by one foot
over that wide and gaping maw;
never had to slide, whole and unchewed,
down the dark and tight-clutching
tunnel of his throat
to drop into his gullet.
No — I was meant for greater things,
hidden in a cave by my mother,
as one of my own clever sons later was,
fed to fullness on goat’s-milk and honey,
and grown, in time,
to the strength of hands
and might of thews.
I must give thanks to my grandfather,
glutted with a surfeit of rage at his maiming,
and the outrage of my grandmother,
whose fury at her son’s foul meals
deprived her of grandchildren.
They aided my mother in her deception,
and I grew to adulthood
with the sound of spears clashing against shields
ringing in my ears.
When I was ready,
I knew I could not defeat my sire alone,
so within his food was hidden a bitter herb,
and one by one,
my brothers and sisters were vomited forth,
full-grown in his belly over the years,
and ready to take umbrage
for his deeds.
To be fair, my father was not stupid;
he understood the inevitability of the prophecy,
even as he strove to defy it,
and he knew the danger in those brethren of his
whom mother-Gaia made:
the one-eyed ones,
the hundred-handed ones,
even his own brothers and sisters,
cowards though he must surely have thought
those last to be,
since they would not take up,
any of them,
the flint sickle their mother had made,
to rid her of Ouranos’ unstinting attentions.
I was not stupid, either,
and though I enlisted my deformed uncles
against my own father,
I was no fool to allow
any such monstrosities
to walk free when the battle had ended,
and my father had been chained up
to languish in Tartarus.
I have spawned my own brood since then,
maidens of flower and battle and the hunt,
sons of war and cleverness and revelry,
and I will not make my father’s mistake.
I will not devour any of them,
for such is abhorrent to me,
but I will always remember
that the one most likely to strike me down
is more apt to come from within the family
and I will keep my eyes open wide,
and be wary,
and be ready.