top of page

The Lame God

"When I'm alone here at night I cuddle him and hold him. Sometimes, I even try to make him walk."     Nurse in one of the Lying Down Rooms in an orphanage in Russia, where, because of the social stigma of crippled children, they are often rejected by their parents and committed to the state.

He walked on thin legs, as Homer put it.
Hephaestus, born with a shriveled foot
that so humiliated Hera

she threw her son into the sea. Once tossed
from high Olympus, he turned his frailty
into grit: counterinsurgency. A terra

firma, as opposed to the water she dreamed of,
his exile made him face his kind,
build her a catbird seat -- a throne

with a trick release to trap her like the imperfections
she reviled.  In the end, he hobbled,
motherless castaway, into their pantheon.

What was it made the Greeks admit a lame god
into their heaven? In all of their myths, his wit
and craftsmanship. But there was plenty

of that to go around. What if the Greek Ideal
that gave them height, relied, for good form,
on what the gods despised --  a symmetry

of damned and apple of their eyes. Twins on a coin,
a champion form: what men could learn to love;
what the state wished was never born.


Copyright © 2007 M. B. McLatchey.  All rights reserved.
Published in The Spoon River Poetry Review, Winter/Spring 2008

bottom of page