The Gods, Among Us

C. Dale Young


One of them grants you the ability
to forecast the future; another wrenches
the tongue from your mouth, changes you
into a bird precisely because you have been
given this gift.  The gods are generous

in this way.  I learned to avoid danger, avoid fear,
avoid excitement, these the very triggers that prompt
the wings from their resting place deep inside.
And so, I avoided fights, avoided everything really.
In the locker room, I avoided the other boys,

all the while intently studying the space
between their shoulder blades, patiently looking
for the tell-tale signs, looking to find even
one other like me, the wings buried but
there nonetheless.  I studied them from a distance.  

When people challenge a god, the gods curse them
with the label of madness.  It is all very convenient.
And meanwhile, a god took the form of a swan
and raped a girl by the school gates.  Another
took the shape of an eagle to abduct a boy

from the football field.  Mad world.  
And what about the teachers? The teachers
expected us to sit and listen.  In Theology, there was
the demon inside each of us; in History,
the demons among us.  So many demons

in this world.  Who among us could have spoken up
against the gods, the gods who continued living
among us?  The gods granted wishes and punishments
much the way they always had.  Very few noticed them
casually taking the shape of one thing or another.