To Zeus, by Carol Rumens


The Mixed Urn

Storm-addict Zeus, we’re told
on good authority, maintains two urns
for forcing human fate.
He flings handfuls from one, then the other –
a slug of grief, and now some tinkling gold.
If there’s any third, a mixed urn --
it’s us, poor contradictions,
thrown together, trying to go straight
on two unlikely feet.
If only we’d been filled
with just the luck required to hunt and gather
and eat and fuck, we wouldn’t have needed Zeus --
our boss, our lord, our loony lightning-rider.
There’d be no gods with urns under their beds.
Nor Homer, either.

To Zeus

Great climate-shifter god, who sees the farthest,
Don’t be rough when you make love to our earth.
She returns the furious kisses of your lightning,
Fearing for her life. And when you strip the sky
To display the bruises we ourselves inflicted,
Believe the remorse of those who thought they were gods.
You also, Episteme and Techne, aid us
in our poor scattered acts of reparation.
Oh Zeus, withdraw into your royal blue smile.
Spare us the vertical rain, your storm of pity.


Poems from The Mixed Urn by Carol Rumens, Sheep Meadow Press, 2019. Copyright © 2019 by Carol Rumens, reprinted by kind permission of the author.

Gold coin of Syracuse. Obverse: Head of Zeus Eleutherios; reverse: Pegasos. 345-317 BCE. The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1890,0504.1