Working Stiff

By Nancy Hathaway


Begin with the body, immortal, flawed.

Or begin with the mother, who conceived him out of spite, not because her mate had been unfaithful but because he had given birth to a daughter, who sprang from his brow like a thought.

Hera paid him back in kind, or such was her intention. She rubbed her hands against the pebbly earth and caressed the veined, watery skin of a lettuce: cool celadon, bitter herb of impotence, deathbed of Adonis.

In this cheerless way, without a swan or a snake, a flame or a cascade of gold, she gave birth to Hephaestus, eternity’s smith.

Yet satisfaction was denied her. For unlike Athena, Zeus’s splendid daughter, Hephaestus was imperfect, with a foot so alarmingly twisted that Hera, mortified, stood on the frosty summit of Mount Olympus and tossed him into the sea.

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