Hera Agon Entry 3

Telia by Jennifer Lawrence

I understand you so much better now.

The stories of the gods were written by men:

Vain men, proud men, wanton and willful,

With a man’s hungers, and a man’s needs.

They portrayed your husband as one of themselves:

A father, a lord, a king,

With a man’s hungers, and a man’s needs.

Without his trysts, they say, so many Olympians and heroes

Simply would not be:

No Apollo and Artemis, no Dionysos,

No Hercules, no Perseus,

No Persephone, no Hermes,

No Graces and no Muses,

No Seasons and no Fates

Most of the seats on the heights of Mount Olympus

Would simply stand empty.


From the first, you spurned his advances and ignored his pleas,

Knowing he knew nothing of fidelity;

Every gift he brought, you refused;

Every flattering compliment he whispered, you stopped your ears against.

Eventually, he sunk to trickery,

Changing his shape to beguile your pity,

And only when you had brought that half-drowned bird

Inside from the pounding storm laced with wild lightnings–

(and oh, if only you had recognized that warning sign!)

–he took you by force, and when he was done,

You had no choice but to wed your brother,

Or live with the shame forever after.

Perhaps you thought that,

At least with the title of queen,

You could content yourself with respect, if not love,

But he made no effort to hide his affairs,

And you knew others knew of them, also.

The cloak of dignity you would have wrapped round yourself

Became the cuckold-wife’s tattered veil,

And all that was left to you then

Were the flames of jealousy and rage

And the icy chains of hatred.

Perhaps you could understand that the women he chose had little choice of their own–

For who could withstand the King of the Gods?

What woman could withstand his guile, or stand fast against his strength?

Nonetheless, your fury needed a target,

And you could no more strike against him, your King,

Than they could,

And so you chose to strike them down when you could–

Rewarding their illicit pleasure with death if possible,

Or changing their shape to something not nearly so tempting,

If your lethal hatred was balked.

Only a woman treated thusly could share

Some of the anger, the despair, the hatred that you felt;

The need to strike out at the one who had hurt you so,

Or, failing that,

At the ones he had hurt you with.

When a woman has no such touchstone for the pain you felt,

It is easy to read the stories written by men,

And see you with clouded eyes,

Thinking you spiteful or cruel,

Instead of a woman seeking only the recompense of justice

For the crimes against you.

I understand you so much better now.


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