Darkness. Darkness. And then words. Ma-ma-ma
and Ha-ha-ha. Hit a rock, it splinters,
you say. First there was the Sun and the Moon,
Yahweh and Shekhinah, Good and Evil.
But pairs do not interest, for in-between
the sun and moon lies the Milkyway and
from the flesh of Yahweh and Shekhinah
arose double-heads and hermaphrodites,
night jars and what’s called pleasure. I brushed rouge
into her cheeks, painted black kohl around
the rims of her eyes; tied up her hair. She
was something else. An ironwood stick. Shattered
stone. The first words ever spoken: ma-ma-
ma. Her flesh was sea-salty with darkness.
Rising on a tongue rooted deep within.
All poetry needs primordial roots.
A SMALL DICTIONARY OF SHARK GODS AND GODDESSES
“like the shark … uttering cries that are almost human.”
‘Ai-kanaka (Hawaii) Also known as: Mano ai Kanaka. A god of killer sharks. Some folklore has ‘Ai-kanaka as a symbol of the high chiefs. A terrible drought had seized the island, and storms raged off the coast. [The cultural hero] Makaha scaled Mauna Lahilahi and called loudly to his ‘aumakua, Mano ai Kanaka, the most vicious of man-eating sharks. As ‘Ai-kanaka glided in from the ocean, Makaha dived from the rocky pinnacle, emerged on ‘Ai-kanaka’s back and rode with regal grandeur. As the two disappeared into the depths, the sea became calm. (Beckwith, 1970; Kealanahele, 1975; Pukui, 1971)
Baabenga (Bellona, Rennell, Solomon Islands) A shark deity who may have, at one time, been two separate entities, since Baabenga appears as both female or male, playing mischievous tricks on island dwellers. On Bellona Island, she is the daughter of Mauloko and sister of Tehanine’angiki and Teangaitak. On Rennell Island, however, he is the son of Tehainga’atua and Sikingimoemore. (Craig, 1989)
Barâo de Goré (Belem, Brazil) Believed to be a shark god. Father of Gorezinho. (Leach, 1992)
Ca Ong (Vietnam) Also known as: Ga Ong. Lord Fish. The sacred whale shark. In the provinces Quang Nam and Danang its bones are taken to selected temples and given sacred burials. There are accounts of little altars beseeching the protection of Ca Ong, which can be seen on sand dunes all along the central and southern Vietnamese coast, close to wrecked tanks and other relics of their war. The festival of Lord Fish is several days in duration and takes place in the middle of the third lunar month. The fishermen decorate their houses, their boats and the temple with signs of the whale [shark]. The elder ones of the village make the ceremony of peace the first evening of the festival. The next morning, at dawn, the fishermen ravel in boats. At midnight, the children make burn accompanied incense professional singers and orchestra. The festival ends with the return of the boats [to Quang Nam]. (Landes, 1886; McCormick, 1963)
Dakuwanqa (Fiji) Shark god who was the eater of lost souls. (Bakker, 1925; Knappert, 1992; Wall, 1918) Dogfish Woman (Haida Gwaii, Canada) Shark goddess. A powerful figure in the folklore of beings of the sea; Dogfish Woman is related in a story of a woman who could transform herself into a shark, and in this form she enters into the other-realm of knowledge, the undersea world. The dogfish is a small variety of shark that inhabits the waters of the North Coast, including those of Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia. Various tribes have a system to identify important figures in their art, and the dogfish is recognized by its gill slits as crescents, crescent shaped mouth, depressed at corners and filled with saw-like teeth. An old medicine man living near the end of Cape Flattery on the north coast recorded a song addressed to the goddess with these words: “Where are you, on whose back the waves break?” (Basti, 2002)
Fa’arsva’i-te-ra’i (Tahiti) A handsome blue shark god, messenger of the great god Ta’aroa.(Henry, 1928)
Haku nui (Hawaii) A shark god, whose name translates as: Big Boss. (Holt, 1993)
Hal-ku-ta-da (Arizona, American Southwest) The shark who came up from the Gulf of California to help the Mojaves. Brother of Kuyu, Pathraxsatta and Pacuchi. (Leach, 1992)
Heiau (Hawaii) Shrines near the shoreline said to be the locations shark-gods visit. (Taylor, 1993)
Ka’ahu pahau (Hawaii) Also known as: K’ahu pahay, Oahu. Shark goddess with her defining feature being her red hair. She lives in a cave with her brother (or son?) Ku-hai-moana at the mouth of Pearl Harbor. Because she had human parents, she is compassionate to humans and protects them from other dangerous sharks. There is a legend that tells of Ka’ahupahau’s defense of her waters against Mikololou, a man-eating shark from the Big Island. (Beckwith, 1940; Craig, 1989; Emerson, 1968; Leach, 1992; Pukui and Green, 1995; Steel, 1985)
Ka-ehu-iki-mano-o-pu’uloa (Hawaii) Little brown (or blond, depending on the story) shark god who guards the entrance to Pearl Harbor but was originally from Puna. Born of human parents he was reared on kava root mixed with his mother’s milk. He was named for the redheaded ehu, of Ka-ahupahau, the queen of the Pearl Harbor sharks gods. Together, with Ka-panila, Kaneilehia, Mano-kini, Ka-pu-lena and Kua, he travels to Tahiti to pay visit the King of All Sharks, Ka-moho-ali, and his Queen, Ka-ahu-pahau. Along the way he battles King Kau-huhu, a violent and bad tempered shark. When Ka-ehu-iki-mano-o-pu’uloa returned, he found Pehu, another killer shark, off Waikiki. He lured the god to shore where the local people attacked and killed him. (Beckwith, 1948; Colum, 1937; Craig, 1989; Thrum, 1923)
Kahoi-a-kane (Hawaii) Also known as: Kaholia-kane Shark god. Worshipped by the high chief Ka-lani-opu’u at the time of the kingdom of Kamehameha (1819). The shark lived in a cave at Puhi, Kaua’i. Kahoi-a-kane was known as a powerful god at Ka’u. (Pukui, 1971; Taylor, 1993)
Kahu Mano (Hawaii) Shark Keeper. In the complex rituals to deify a recently deceased family member, the Kahu Mano who performed these rites was either a relative or a kahuna [priest]: “The bones were wrapped in tapa…then the family would go down to the sea and pray and give offerings (food and awa). Then, it was believed, the shark would come and take this bundle of bones right under its pectoral fin. The shark would hold the bones there. Then for a while the family would keep coming back with offerings, until the bundle of bones took the form of a shark.” (Taylor, 1993)
Kak Ne Xoc (Maya, Yucatan, Mexico) A five-tailed shark god and god of fishermen (Leach, 1992)
Kamohoali’i (Hawaii) Also known as: Kalahiki. Shark god. The people of Hawaii, the ancient land, had personal family gods. Kamohoali’i was one of the most favorite for those whose work had to do with the sea. Worshiped as an aumakua [deified ancestral spirits] Kamohoali’i appeared in human form naked, a sign of divinity. As a shark, Kamohoali’i enjoyed lounging in the deep waters around Maui, especially in the narrow, swift straight between the island and the tapu, the sacred island of Kahoolawe, where most knew him by another name, Kalahiki. His favorite trick was to find the fleet of fishing canoes when they were out of sight of land and get them hopelessly lost. Kalahiki would then swim in front of the lead boat and shake his tail. The kahuna of the fleet, a man learned in the ways of the shark gods, would then order that awa be fed to Kalahiki. This potion, made from bitter roots fermented into a strong drink, greatly pleased the god. He would then reward the people by leading them back home through the fog and mist that often covered the waters. At one point he had a heiau (temple or shrine) dedicated to him on every piece of land that jutted into the ocean on the island of Moloka’i. It is said that a man had to be careful which shark he chose as his god: some sharks were just simple eaters-of-all, who were called itchy-mouthed, or uhinipili. There are many tales of large boats sinking in the waters around Maui, with none surviving to tell of their encounter with either Kalahiki or the uhinipili. (Anderson, 1969; Taylor, 1993)
Ka-naka-o-kai (Hawaii) A guardian shark of the island of Maui. (Leach, 1992)
Kane’apua (Hawaii) Shark god. A trickster kupua (demigod) described variously as a brother of Pele, as a younger shark brother of Kane and Kanaloa, and as a fish god of Kaunolu, Lana’i, where a nearby islet is named for him. He angered Kane and Kanaloa by urinating in their water, and they flew away as birds. Wahanui (great mouth), a voyager bound for Kahiki, passed Kaunolu Point and Kane’apua hailed him. Wahanui replied that his canoe was full, but when Kane raised a storm, he took Kane’apua aboard. Kane’apua quieted two kupua hills, Paliuli (dark cliff) and Palikea (white cliff), that clashed together, destroying canoes, and he performed many other feats. (Taylor, 1993)
Kanehuna-moku (Hawaii) A guardian shark of Maui. (Leach, 1992)
Kane-i-ko-kala (Hawaii) A benign shark god who saved people from shipwrecks. The kokala fish is sacred to him. (Beckwith, 1970; Leach, 1992)
Kapaaheo (Hawaii) Also known as: Kohala Shark Stone. This shark-shaped stone monument is currently located at the Bishop Museum. One time, it seems, Hawaiian girls vanished while swimming from their favorite swimming beach in one of the island, beautiful bays, and these disappearances coincided with sightings of a mysterious stranger in the area. When local fishermen armed with spears went into the water with the girls, they were able to fend off an attacking shark, seriously wounding it. Not long after, the unknown stranger was found on the beach dying of stab wounds and, when he expired, he turned into the Kapaaheo. (Steel, 1985)
Kau-huhu (Hawaii) Shark god. There are many tales concerning this god, illustrating both his valuable and dire qualities. A high chief had two boys killed for playing with his drums. Their father Kamalo sought the help of the shark god Kau-huhu to get revenge. Kau-huhu told the man to build a special fence around his place and to collect 400 black pigs, 400 red fish, and 400 white chickens. Months later, Kau-huhu came in the form of a cloud. He caused a great storm which washed everyone on the hillside, except Kamalo and his people, into the harbor, where sharks devoured them. (Leach, 1992; Westervelt, 1963)
Kau-naha-ili-pakapaka (Hawaii) A beneficent shark god. (Leach, 1992; Westervelt, 1963)
Ka-welo (Hawaii) Deified shark god. A warrior-hero of Kauai who was a kupua and who performed prodigious feats of strength and bravery, throwing spears, hurling rocks, catching giant fish. Ka-welo’s elder brother was Ka-welomahamaha-i’a, a great chief of Kaua’i whose heiau was dedicated to the king of the shark-gods, Ka-moho-ali’i, and who was himself worshiped as a shark-god after his death. (Pukui & Curtis, 1997)
Kawelomahamahai’a (Hawaii) An older brother of Kawelo, who was turned into a shark and was worshiped. (Taylor, 1996)
Ke-ali’i-kau-o-ka-u (Hawaii) Shark god who protects humans against other vicious sharks. Cousin to the fire goddess Pele. He had an affair with a beautiful young human of Waikapuna, Ka’u, and she gave birth to a beneficent green shark. (Beckwith, 1970; Taylor, 1993)
Ke-pani-la (Hawaii) A shark-god of Puna, said to be so huge that when he rose to the surface of the sea his back was higher than the tiny island of Kaula, southwest of Niihau, named for the red-tailed borun bird. (Pukui & Curtis, 1997)
Kua (Hawaii) Also known as: Kua’a-Wakea. A shark god called the king shark of Ka’u and the ancestor of numerous Ka’u folk. With Kaholia-Kane he raised a storm between Kaua’i and Oahu to prevent the marriage of their divine relative, Pele, and Lohau, a mortal. (Beckwith, 1970; Leach, 1992; Taylor, 1996)
Ku-hai-moana (Hawaii) Shark god. Also known as: Kah’uka, Kuheimoana or Ku following ocean. He was brother to Pele and husband (or son?) of the shark goddess Ka’ahu-pahau. His name means, Smiting Tail; his shark tail was used to strike at enemy sharks. He also used his tail to strike fishermen as a warning that unfriendly sharks had entered Pu’uloa. Kah’uka lived in an underwater cave off Moku’ume’ume (Ford Island) near Keanapua, a Point at the entrance of East Loch; he also had the form of an underwater stone. An older legend said he was said to be thirty fathoms long. (Beckwith, 1970; Sterling and Summers, 1978; Taylor, 1993)
Kumano (Hawaii) The “chiefly sport” of shark riding. Before sharks were hunted, the ancient fishermen of Hawaii would pray to begin the shark hunting ceremony. Sometimes, human flesh was used as bait for sharks. The Hawaiians would troll the bait of the back of a canoe, and then rope the shark with a series of nooses once it went for the bait. The shark was either dragged to shore, or it was ridden. (Beckwith, 1917)
Mamala (Oahu, Hawaii) A queen who was of kupua or “shark woman” character. This meant that she was a shark as well as a beautiful woman, and could assume whichever shape she most desired. She was married to the shark-man Ouha. She was also a legendary surfer, and her fame was such that the surf where she rode bore the name Ke-kai-o Mamala [The sea of Mamala]: When the Sun rose high it was called Ka-nuku-o-Mamala [The nose of Mamala]. (Westervelt, 1915)
Mami (Lau Islands, Fiji, Melanesia) Shark god who could take human shape. (Beckwith, 1970; Leach, 1992)
Mango-Roa-i-Ata (Maori, New Zealand) The Long Shark at Dawn. The Milky Way. Maui caught this shark when he was fishing up the islands. He threw it up into the nighttime sky. (Knappert, 1992)
Manjerowuli (Iwaidja, Australia) Shark-man totem. (Spencer, 1968)
Ma-o-purotu (Tahiti) There are two versions of who Ma-o-purotu is. In one he is the pet shark of the hero Tane. In another tale he is a shark god that lives in the sky. (Henry, 1928; Leach, 1992)
Mo-ana-li-ha (Hawaii) Deified man-eating shark located off Maui. (Ashdown, 1971)
Mohoalii (Ohau, Hawaii) A shark god. (Westerveslt, 1963)
Nanaue (Hawaii) Shark-man. This god lived on the Big Island until he was discovered and the demigod Unauna wrestled with him to the death. Kamohoali’i and a mortal woman named Kalei were his parents. Their child was the boy Nanaue and [he] bore on his back a mark like a shark’s mouth. Kamohoali’i gave strict instructions that the boy was never under nay circumstances to be given meat, but one day this commandment was disobeyed. As soon as the meat passed his lips, Nanaue discovered the power to change himself into a shark. Craving more meat, he cruised the beaches in shark form and killed his full of the islanders until at last he was caught. Nanaue’s shark-body was taken to a hill at Kainaliu, which thereafter became known as Pumano, Shark Hill. (Craig, 1989; Steel, 1985)
Nevi Yanan (Java, Indonesia) A sea-god who appeared in the form of a shark. (Knappert, 1992)
Ngaru-mangooo (Anuta; Solomon Islands) Literally, a wave of sharks. It is used as a poetic expression when being set upon by a large school of sharks. (Feinberg, 1998)
Nohi-Abassi (Warren Indians, South America) The constellation of Orion in native mythology resembles and symbolizes a man’s leg being bitten off: [It is] the missing leg of Nohi-Abassi, a man who tried to get rid of his mother-in-law by training a murderous shark to devour her. However, his leg was cut off by his sister-in-law, perhaps a shark herself, and he died. His leg ended up in one part of the sky, and his body in another. (McCormick, 1963)
Ouha (Hawaii) A shark-god. He was married to the legendary surfer Mamala, until she left him. He made his home in the ocean near Koko Head, where Mamala and Ouha drank awa together. The chief, Hono-kau-pu, chose to take Mamala as his wife, so she left Ouha and lived with her new husband. Ouha was angry and tried at first to injure Hono and Mamala, but he was driven away. He fled to the lake Ka-ihi-Kapu toward Waikiki. There he appeared as a man with a basketful of shrimps and fresh fish, which he offered to the women of that place, saying, Here is life [i.e., a living thing] for the children. He opened his basket, but the shrimps and the fish leaped out and escaped into the water. The women ridiculed the god-man. As the ancient legendary characters of all Polynesia could not endure anything that brought shame or disgrace upon them in the eyes of others, Ouha fled from the taunts of the women, casting off his human form, and dissolving his connection with humanity. Thus he became the great shark-god of the coast between Waikiki and Koko Head. (Westervelt, 1915)
Pau-walu (Hawaii) Shark-man that once lived at Wailua, Maui. He warned fishermen that some of them would be killed on their voyage. Several villagers threw him into their fire as a consequence. (Craig, 1989)
Poinamu (Maori, New Zealand) A shark god #%G–#%@ the masculine personification of jade. In Maori folklore jade suppose to form the soft state inside of the shark and only hardens once exposed to air. He is the son of Tangaroa and Anu-matao and the twin of Poutini. (Leach, 1992)
Poutini (Maori, New Zealand) A shark goddess. The twin of Poinamu and thus the female personification of jade. (Leach, 1992)
Sa’me-Hito (Japan) Also known as: Sa’me’bito. A black monster with green glowing eyes and a spiky beard like a dragon. It was confronted by the hero Totaro on the Long Bridge. But, instead of attacking him as one might expect from a monster that is half-shark (sa’me translates as shark) and half-man, it entreated him to give it food and shelter, for the Sea King had expelled it from the ocean. Totaro took Sa’me’bito to the lake near his own castle where he fed it. (Knappert, 1992)
Sautahimatawa (Ulawa, Solomon Islands, Melanesia) A shark spirit to whom sacrifices were made for help in fishing for the bonitos fish. (Leach, 1992)
Seketoa (Tonga) Shark spirit. A nobleman who became a benevolent shark. The descendants of Maatu, the chief of [the island] Niuatoputapu have the right to call on Seketoa and Seketoa will help them. When Maatu wants to speak with Seketoa he sends out his matapules (assistants) and they throw some kava root into the sea. Then two remoras [fish that live and will even ride on sharks] will come to the kava roots. These two remoras are the matapules of Seketoa. After the two remoras come they will go away, then a small shark comes and goes away. Then a larger shark comes and goes away. Finally a great big shark comes. This is Seketoa. Then Maatu, the chief, will speak with Seketoa. (Beckwith, 1970; Craig, 1989)
Skalugsuak (Greenland) A creation legend: All other Greenland fishes were created from chips of wood, but the Greenland shark smells so strongly of ammonia, its origin is different. Long ago, as legend has it, an old woman washed her hair with urine and was drying it with a cloth. A gust of wind carried the cloth to sea and there it turned into Skalugsuak, the Greenland shark. (Ellis, 2003)
Ta-hui (Tahiti) Shark god. (Henry, 1928)
Takea (Mangaia, Rarotonga) Sharks god. Assisted the goddess ‘Ina to the island of Motu-tapu. (Anderson, 1969)
Tama-opu-rua (Tahiti) Shark god. Ancestor to the female demon Fe’e-matotiti. (Henry, 1928)
Tane-ma’o (Tahiti) Shark god. In the epic of Hilo, Tane-o revenged the murder of Tane’s little red bird by swallowing Hilo’s companions. (Henry, 1928)
Taufa (Tonga) Also known as: Taufatahi. Shark god. (Leach, 1992)
Tere-mahiamaa-hiva (Tahiti) Shark ancestor to the hero Kaha’i who accompanies him on his exploits around the Pacific. (Henry, 1928)
Tinirau (Greater Polynesia) Also known as: Tini Rau, Kinilau, Sinilau and Tinilau. The god of the ocean and fish, also known as The Swallower. He is a double-natured god who can appear as a terrifying fish (the Shark-God), with its mouth wide open and ready to devour its prey, or as a handsome young man. In the latter appearance, his right side is occasionally human and the left side piscine. He has n affair with (or is married to) Hina-Keha, the Moon-goddess. She always supplies him and his people with plenty of fish. (Knappert, 1992)
Tumu-i-te-are-Toka (Mangaia) A great shark god. (Leach, 1992)
‘Unihokahi (Hawaii) A one-toothed shark god. Legend has it this god belonged to the waters of Kahaloa at Waikiki and Mokoli’i, at Hakipu’u and Kualoa in Ko’olaupoko. Because of his dull tooth it is said his bite was a warning of the approach of an enemy. (Sterling and Summers, 1978)
Unihipili (Hawaii) A spirit-shark (though sometimes it appears as other animals) that does ones bidding, for good or ill. Also, a term for itchy mouth, a shark that will eat anything. (Taylor, 1993)
Vivi-te-rua-ehu (Tahiti) Shark god that belonged to Chief Moe. The god inhabits a coral reef off the island in the district of Taiarapu. (Henry, 1928)
Wanba (Iwaidja, Australia) Shark totem. (Spencer, 1968)
There is a legend told by the diving
girls of Okinawan, the Uminchu,
that the Queen of the Sea, while out floating
one day on the surface, gave birth to two
daughters. A goddess births only pearls,
of course, big as the moon. These two daughters
slept on the sea floor. Side by side, two girls
in their pearly forms slept. Then pearl divers
found Rin curled all round. Where her twin sister
was hid none could say. So they took her home,
combed her hair and called her Rin, the Sea Queen’s
daughter. And being the Sea Queen’s daughter
Rin was the essence of love and sea foam …
… and Our Lady of War and Submarines.
* * *
Dreaming, I walked on the shores of West Lake.
In a spangled coach, pulled by a pale horse,
I met a comely ghost. “My one mistake,”
the girl said, “was to die beautiful. Coarse,
ugly girls sleep in peace. But not for me.
There is always some idiot writing
poems in my name, calling me foxy,
a man-eater. Pff.” she sighed, untying
the heart-shaped knot of her robe. I stopped her.
Why make the dead’s lives harder than they are?
“Drink with me,” she offered. Ghosts aren’t able
to get drunk, but she liked gin’s raw flavor.
“Thank you,” I said as I lit her cigar.
Smiling, she drank me under the table.
* * *
Su Xiaoxiao (蘇小小, died sometime around 501 AD) was a famous courtesan and poet from the city of Qiantang during the Southern Qi Dynasty (479–502 AD). Her tomb is on the shores of West Lake, in what is known today as Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province in eastern China. Being gifted and beautiful (as legend will have it) she was the romantic heroine in much poetry written by Tang dynasty poets. Even today she stars in her own Chinese soap opera, Generation of the courtesan Su Xiaoxiao, staring Yamei Wang.
“The gods cannot help me. Neither the Tao
nor Zen. I am lost in a sex-soaked fog.”
There is a legend that Princess Shoujiāo
fell in love with P’anhu, a spirit dog,
who rid her father’s kingdom of his foes.
“Why does my crazed body long for union
with this dark thing? I was up on tiptoes
the first time he mounted me. The poison
of lust runs clear and strong again. I screamed
and he howled and we came together.
Madness to let a beast rut in my cunt
like that. Madness? No. Have I blasphemed?
He took me as mate and I his lover.
I am a dark thing: mammoth and pregnant.”
“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”
Herman Melville: MOBY DICK
chapter 135: the chase; 3rd day
* * *
East Hall was in flames. The roof of Queen’s Court
had just collapsed. I was running behind
the new captain, her braids singed, when report
came that the queen was dead. “Go! Try and find
Princess Zi Ye,” my captain ordered me.
Then: “they’ve trapped us!” a voice rose from our flank
as the sky darkened. Lord Bai Qi’s army
let loose its steel-tipped arrows. At pointblank
range none escaped. In the mud my captain’s
face still drowns before me. You praise their death
in the same misbegotten way virgins
praise sex. “For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath;”
at you, worm, who has never, will never
shed blood but worships the dead warrior.
Bai Qi is a historic character from the period of ancient China called The Warring States; during which warlords fought each other for power. Though a brilliant general, Bai Qi is remembered today as a cruel tyrant who massacred tens of thousands of vanquished enemy solders and civilians alike.
And then, lying deep inside you, I wait
to be kissed. But your face is pressed into
the wet grass, fast asleep. You are deadweight
under me. Is twenty minutes all you
have to offer? I was just warming up.
Tsk. I was born in Crete, far to the east.
A beast-like child. “They will fear you, worship
you,” father said. But he wasn’t a beast,
only a fiend. I was Mino’s Bull.
My real name is Asterion. Theseus,
wake up. You are seeping and flooded, full
of my love; fagged and shagged, fashed and lifeless.
Child of clay, I want another tumble.
I want to make the ground scream and rumble.
I pour myself a drink;
no friends for company
— Li Bai, “drinking
alone with the moon.”
A thief has been drinking my wine. I think
it is Li Bai. I thought drowning after
falling overboard stone drunk would make drink
somehow less bewitching, but a lover
of the moon and wine will always love moons
and wines. My poor Li Bai found you cannot
hold the moon’s reflection or a typhoon’s
fury while on the water. Once I caught
him in my cup, offered him sex instead
but he’s a cold-eyed and dispassionate
ghost at the best of times and turned away.
So I’ll remain sober and old deadhead
here will remain dead drunk. Such is our fate.
At least now he has a friend who will stay.
* * *
* * *
Once, long ago, a small girl, Enyo, tamed
a war horse. This was before she was known
as the “waster of cities” and was famed
for her blood-lust; being “Ares’ backbone”
in war. The horse came down from the rooftrees
of Mount Ita. Enyo heard his snorting,
clearing his nostrils to read the cool breeze.
At six she barely reached his nickering
muzzle; yet she did tame him. Strong of brawn.
Strong of bone. You know the rest. How the two
remained life-long comrades until he fell
at Thebes. How she, a myth from a bygone
era, went mad with wild heartache and slew
countless men, earning her name Queen of Hell.
Ares is the Greek god of war and Enyo (sometimes described as his sister or his lover) has been described in some texts as “equal in violence” as the god, as well as being a war goddess herself.
Mount Ita (also spelled Ida) is one of two sacred mountains in Greek mythology. Both being called Ita, one is located on the island of Crete and the other in Anatolia (in modern-day Turkey). The mountains are associated with the goddesses Rhea and Cybele.