All Their Voices

Words and thoughts in devotion to the Divine

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Daïs Hetaerus

They call you ‘Friend of Man’,

and though you are not human,

have never been human,

Still you understand us poor mortals

better than the others of your family.

Though you of Mount Olympus

are called the Deathless Ones

still you understand our fear of death

and you are kind to us–

save in cases of human evil

where kindness is not called for–

when you come to escort us away,

after our last breathing moment,

to our destination beyond

the gates of Ivory and Horn

to Hades’ domain.

You alone of all the Olympians

understand humor,

as your first utterances show

–to brother Apollo,

when he confronted you for stealing his cattle–

and you know well how important a laugh can be

to help lighten our heavy loads.

You understand the need for theft

when hunger and privation and poverty

threaten to tear body from soul

and we would sell the very flesh off our bones

for a mouthful of bread–

if not for us, then for our children.

Not for nothing are you called ‘God of Thieves’,

and perhaps for you, theft is more about

the joy of the challenge

than any hunger-driven need,

but still, you show your favor

to those who pray to you

in those moments of extreme desperation.

You taught me the value of persistence,

even through pain;

You taught me to keep going,

even when all hope is gone.

You taught me the reasons

a closed mind can be a death sentence.

And you taught me the only appropriate response

for certain kinds of stupidity is laughter.

The miasma of human things

does not touch your incorruptible self,

but above all others, I think,

you understand us woebegone

and ridiculous human beings,

and for that, I will always

be grateful for the time spent in your company,

always pour out libations to you,

just as two friends might get together for tea,

thank you for your aid,

tell you how things have been,

wonder the same of you,

and always



call you Friend.

For Hermes.


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Mercury Retrograde

(I never do humor in poetry. Never. Well, never until now. But if a poem came to me that was mildly humorous about something connected with a deity, at least I know that the god in question DOES have a sense of humor.)


I suppose, dear Hermes,
that I should look upon these crises
as challenges meant to help me grow,
but I would really just like to know
what happened
to my wifi
my bus.

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There is sickness in the air:
a pollution of the spirit,
hanging over the cities,
hanging over the pastures where the herds graze,
hanging even over the temples where offerings are brought.
Do not mistake me for that other One;
Lambs are light, easy to carry,
for all they may kick and bleat
or shit down your shoulder.
Shepherds may revere me, but I am no shepherd;
The burden I carry is no lamb newborn
or shaggy ewe, udders swollen with Spring’s milk.
No, what I carry is the flock’s guardian
— not the shepherd, no beardless boy with bark-stripped staff —
but the flock’s true king,
crowned heavy with horns,
fire in his eyes at the merest whiff of wolf or bear;
fierce his shout and fierce the thundering beat of his heart,
fiercer still the courage he shows as he charges those
who would do the ewes or lambs harm.
This is why he makes the perfect sacrifice;
this is why I carry him, heavy and struggling,
across my shoulders, around the city walls,
high enough for all to see —
the shepherds in their fields
and the priests in the temples,
the children playing in the streets
and the merchants in the city square.
He is no mewling babe, easily controlled;
it takes determination to hold him,
and the certainty that bringing the blade to his throat
to spill his blood and then lower meat and fat and fur to the fire
will bring on the favor of those who sit so high above
and send that sweet smoke unto them.
After you have washed yourself with water
of sea salt and bay leaf smoke,
after I have borne the ram to the place of sacrifice,
after all the proper rites been conducted,
then — and only then — has that spirit-sickness lifted,
has the miasma been purged,
and then and only then will the herd rest safe once more.