Hymn for the Adonia

For a lot of reasons, July was a busy month for me, and I didn’t get to write three poems connected with the festival poems/odes/hymns I’ve been writing. Today I finally figured out why — I’d forgot to write them into my calendar. Duh. Now they’re in my calendar under “sacred days”, and I have To Do list items for each of the ones I skipped.

I also wrote one of them today. Adonis is the god of male beauty, but he’s also the god overseeing youth cut down in its prime. I picked him for the list of July deities because I’ve watched a good number of boys grow up, and I’ve met more than a few cut down. I wrote this hymn because I wanted to re-imagine the way we think of Adonis. Maybe this will work…

Hymn for the Adonia
(July 19)

Hail, muscled divinity, manly god,
Aphrodite’s lover and ideal male:
All men alive envy your firm-fleshed rod;
almost all women fall under your spell,
at times, so many are your incarnations.
You meld athletic grace with virile force,
and match hawk-speed with cat’s agility.
Sated lusts are your daily libations.
Yet, like men, you labor beneath a curse,
and your death once promised fertility.

In ancient days, that doom was sacrifice:
strong boys flung down some bottomless cave,
or slain in a field as promised blood-price,
or torn into bits, or drowned under wave.
Fair youths thus lost drove mothers to mourning;
their tears called the rain to wake planted seed,
so life was renewed. Yet we need no death:
Hippolytus, and Icarus soaring,
still rash among us, and few warnings heed;
audacity and error steal their breath

as easily as poison, or fire.
Thus, too many are scythed down in their prime.
Adonis, help! Make growing boys desire
healthy bodies, sound minds — and fruitful time
in which to achieve all crowning glories
where dreadful risk returns tremendous wealth—
as life, pawned out, is with interest redeemed.
Take — instead of blood — their risk-filled stories
where boys return from danger in good health,
with bodies strengthened, and their manhood claimed.

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