The Lesser Gods

by Ellen Bass

Jupiter’s bruised. Something smacked into it Sunday,
leaving a black eye the size of the Pacific–
its strong gravity like a shield protecting the fragile earth.
As one astronomer explained
“We should thank the giant planet for suffering for us.”

I’m not sure Jupiter is a Christ
but as I sit on my front steps, garbage and green waste
lined up curbside, plastic wheels deep in spent rose petals,
sunlight spilling on the blossom-bent spines,

I think how easy to be inspired
by the more theatrical gods: the sun, the moon,
the god of desire, bees throbbing in the throats
of these roses, the roses, how natural to praise them.

But what about all the modest
neglected deities–the overlooked
who’ve never had a temple built to them?
This morning I raise my cup of fragrant coffee to
the god of mold pushing in the shower grout, rust
eating the bent lip of the paint can. Bacteria
toiling in the landfill and all the other detritivores,
millipedes and woodlice, burying beetles.

Also the fly god who lands on my hand,
thorax glowing an emerald iridescence.
And the god of maggots whose infinite mouth hooks
scrape the corpses of reindeer and doves,
raking our own humbled flesh after our visit
to this small planet. They graze,
filter, scavenge and browse.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap