I have a poem published in the most recent issue of Voiceworks, LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING.
Aphrodite is the oldest of the Olympian gods, and I thought about exploring a darker, more primordial reading of her. As the goddess of love and beauty, her marriage to disabled Hephaestus is often seen as a cosmic joke. I wanted to see that conflict resolved with a queer turn.
This will be my last poem in Voiceworks, since I turned 25 a few days after the submission deadline. I am deeply grateful to Voiceworks editor Adalya Nash Hussein for helping shape this poem into something I am sincerely proud of (and for being very patient while I rambled on at length about mythic context).
The issue includes a breathtaking illustration by Iona Julian-Walters accompanying my poem. You can pick up a copy here.
Here’s another version. Aphrodite is an old god,
older than most. She is born when Cronus cuts off
his father’s dick and flings it into the ocean. Around
the severed organ silver foam wells up, and in time
a girl takes shape in the crest of the wave, her body
pale and shining. When she emerges from the water
grass grows beneath her feet. Her outline wavers
a little in the blush of dawn, lit around with gold.
This is before she knows the form of her divinity.
She thinks she might be a goddess of the morning,
or of summer blossoms, or birdsong. But her teeth
are a little too sharp for that, the arch of her throat
too cruel. She lacks the batlike wings of her infernal
sisters, the jealous Furies, but there is something
in her eyes that resembles them. What she wants,
she takes. Her attention is first drawn to her husband
by the bright rubies winking in his earlobes, then by
the delicate treasures he crafts as courting-gifts:
grand chariots, jewelled chalices, fine-wrought chains.
His prosthesis is simple but lovely, a platinum frame
spun lightly around the scarred warp of his leg.
Hephaestus, like her, has an eye for beauty. Later
outside Troy the goddess hears a bloodcurdling cry
as brazen Ares comes blazing through the mortal
ranks, his eyes flashing with hellish flame, red with
gore, beautiful and terrible. She takes him to her bed
not long afterward. Stripped of his bloody raiment,
spilled out against her pillows, the god of strife is
strangely vulnerable. His hands are soft at his sides.
Aphrodite has no mercy in her: she rises over him,
bites and scratches, sinks her claws deep into his flesh.
Her husband finds them there like that. Ares glowing
under the light of the moon, Aphrodite pinning him
down. Hephaestus stops in the doorway, his shadow
stretching out over their bodies. His knuckles are white
around a golden net. His eyes are burning. Aphrodite
arches her back, tips her head back lazily to meet her
husband’s furious gaze; then she opens her arms to him
as Ares shudders beneath her. A moment of hesitation.
The golden mesh slips out of his hands. He strides forward.