Prayer for Athena This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

with colored hearts, the tall flowers
sway around you, all the other boys,
in cold spring, as the violets open."
--Louise Glück

1. The back of the neck will stay warm, even if everything else is cold.
2. Blue marks always look passive and pretty, in the summer.
3. Bravery cannot be patronized.
4. Athena doesn’t love me.

Athena, goddess of eight-year-old girls who only read when the teacher says to, who prefer their deities human but don’t know it yet—children, the offspring of illiterate poets, children who learn about war before wisdom. Athena, I plan on dying before becoming wise and Athena, I will fail.

Give me violet bruises that feel wrong even when pressed the right way. Athena, bless my neck with cuts and aches and my spine with a straight edge. Deliver me from warm, gentle wind. Deliver me from the cavalry of little girls. I will fail you, Athena, I will fail you if I can’t fight. Deliver me from the schism in my head.

Spiders weave their webs between my lips and olive branches keep me planted to this useless beach while battles burn—and the soldiers die for me but they’re murmuring your name, a breathy howl, a slow drip from their wounds and open mouths—but it’s not the right sound and I will fail you.

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