Saturn Devouring His Children

If they can’t be killed let them live
piecemeal in my stomach, my bloodstream,
the dense bulb of my liver.
Let them measure my gut like tapeworms
until they know nothing else.
This is the Golden Age —
things take care of themselves,
& a god who lives forever has
no need for descendents.
That last one, Zeus, was a hard candy
I gave up trying to chew & swallowed whole.
I still feel him down there,
rolling from side to side
as if needing to be nursed.
Sleep, my indigestible issue.
Your age of base metals will never come.
I have taken my medicine & it’s time
you took yours: a god too,
if only & forever in the spleen.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

12 Comments


  1. I love this poem. The story of Saturn consuming his own offspring so that they will not supplant him has often been fascinating for me. The children are reborn from his mouth; the roles of father and mother are combined into one. The birth of the Olympian gods and goddesses.

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    1. Oh, glad you liked! And of course what he thought was Zeus was actually a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes.

      I hardly ever draw on Greek mythology; I’m not sure what prompted this one.

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  2. And of course, that was only the second of three such cycles — (Ouranous/Gaea/Kronos¹, Kronos/Rhea/Zeus, and Zeus/Metis/Athena. And that last cycle has a shadow-image in the later tales of Yahweh/Mary²/Jesus, by way of the legend of Prometheus (aka Lucifer).

    ¹ You’ll know, of course, that Saturn is just the Latin name for Kronos. I can easily forgive macaronism in the name of poetry. ;-)

    ² The “three Marys” motif strongly hints that her figure derives from a prior goddess, perhaps a sea-goddess (“Mer”) — and Metis was the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys.

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    1. Well, of course I was echoing the title of the famous Goya painting, but also wanted to name-check Saturn with Saturnalia fast approaching (Dec. 25).

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  3. Trying to figure out why this is so arresting, so important-feeling, and I’m not able to. But it’s the same thing Goya was on to, the nightmare parent.

    Favorite lines:

    “the dense bulb of my liver”

    and

    “your age of base metals will never come.”

    It’s brute stupidity of Bush years, I guess, in one of the ways I can take it. But it resonates across more worlds than that.

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    1. Well, that’s good to know — thanks! One possible source of resonance is the continued popularity of theophagy as the central ritual act in Christianity.

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  4. That’s what mythology is all about — resonance with the human experience. And this myth is very apposite to current affairs.

    For decades now, America has been afraid of our children, and has been attacking them in all sorts of ways — from the So-called War On Drugs, to “trial as adult”, from the attacks on youthful sexuality (suppression of sex ed combined with the abuse of “sex crime” laws), to No Child Left Behind (“Everyone slow down so little Timmy can keep up!”).

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    1. Good point! I was just listening to an NPR story about the “epidemic” of sexting. To NPR’s credit, they pointed out that this is nothing new.

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  5. Terrific poem, Dave! I’m glad you let yourself go to the Greek once in a while, instead of all those other weird-ass myths you and your brothers seem to know by heart!

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    1. The problem with Greek myths, for me, is that we know them only as they’ve been transmitted by people who no longer believed them. Of course, that’s true of the Norse myths, too. But the myths in Genesis, for example, or the Rg Veda seem much fresher by contrast.

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  6. Wait – why do you say that? Hesiod didn’t believe the myths, for instance? Or are you talking about the versions in Ovid?

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    1. Hesiod maybe, but for the later poets and certainly the playwrights, they were already just stories. And we can sense from the pre-Socratics what had happened: the abstract theology of Memphis had won the day, at least among intellectuals.

      Reply

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