. Heliotrope Phaeton, son of the god Helios, attempted to drive his father’s celestial chariot. His inexperience caused him to burn up part of the earth and the heavens, so he was killed by a thunderbolt from Zeus. The frightened gods all breathed in deep relief (Thunderer, thanks! You’ve saved both earth and sky!) When Phaeton, son of Helios, fell down Plummeting in flames to his destruction. The Scorpion and the Serpent writhed no more In dazzling malice, while ethereal heats Baked even the most distant spheres to frenzy. They cleared the scorched and broken clutter, took An inventory of what had been lost. As for Phaeton’s burnt and mangled limbs, Nymphs gathered them for piteous interment— Keening, they wrote in cold funereal marble The epitaph of one youth’s foolish daring; And soon, the rolling tropics of the sky Moved in their old and well-accustomed circles, Unperturbed, unconscious, and at ease. But on earth, gold faces turned and twisted In disorder and vague reminiscence. And they still to this day scan the sky, Though now attuned to orthodoxy’s rhythm And tutored in celestial restraint. . . The Comic Birth of Venus Venus was born from the severed genitals of Uranos. They were cut off by his sons while Uranos was in the act of intercourse with his wife Gaia, and then thrown into the sea where they mixed with oceanic foam. From this conjunction of flesh, blood, and water the goddess of sexuality emerged. The wind moved over waters, whispering— It swirled the waters, curled them into waves That were siphoned into twisting shells. Trapped air spun in bubbles, churned to froth; The caught entangled spirit raged in vain And from this turmoil rose a gauzy veil That spiraled upwards, like a cyclone’s gyre. Still the wind moved, turned the silver veil Into a rosy, shimmering fine mist, And unresisting, this became a pearl Congealing to epiphany in nacre. And now, the shell-borne child of foamy spume Stands spectral on the glassy, unplumbed deep While all around, the brood of earth and sea Gape in wonder. Then the trickster gull Swoops by like an albatross to squawk: What else is new? We’re born ’twixt wind and water! . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.