This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Talking to Snakes by Rebecca Bratten Weiss, released by Ethel Zine in 2020.
Someone hacked off the head of
the goddess Athena and stuck it
on a pillar in the Carnegie Museum.
Back in the old days you couldn’t
do that. You couldn’t kill a god,
and if you did they’d come back
to life, out of the blood spilled on
the soil, or out of a tomb, disguised
as a gardener. Or if there were a
dead god propped on a pillar you’d
be cautious around it, maybe sacrifice
something, at least surreptitiously
squash a spider as an offering. So
the spider should be happy that
there are no true devout here, no
one who believes in blood sacrifice,
except for maybe me, and I don’t
I get away from the others
and stand a long time looking up at
that silent head, those sightless eyes.
Snakes curl across her breast, and
in spite of that, and having lost
her body, how peaceful she looks.
I could use some snakes on my chest.
I could use that helmet. If there’s any
way to draw blood in the museum
without drawing too much attention,
I’m going to do it next time. Scatter it
over her. Two thousand years she’s
been dead, but when she comes back
I’ll take her head under my arm and
carry it out into the sunlight.
They took your body, I’ll say.
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