This is an Invocation

Athena

The goddess— 

born, they say, from the forehead of her father

known as Pallas, she

of War, of Wisdom,

one with the blade, the loom, 

or written word

look to our Lady of the Owls to find

she came from Zeus’s head

but embodies mortal, human mind.

For what are our brains but

caves that harbor contradictions —

War and Wisdom twist within

our noble words and maledictions. 

2.

We wake now from our history books

to see the clear-cut past 

plunged into mist by the voices

of those who were, for so long, 

kept in silence by the winds

of endless nights, lost in the

agony of the Middle Passage.

Athena—

Our palace goddess,

patron saint of

Freedom and Democracy

demands all sides of history,

says 1619, not 1620.

3. 

Still one more truth inside the cave:

it used to be easy 

to face a risen flag,

to see honor cast

in black and white, wrong and right.

The rope to raise the flag

remains unbroken, but

the strands are frayed

in our grasping fingers.

Nostalgia begs us to recall

a Rockwellean antiquity,

bygone eras that didn’t exist.

But we must be free to challenge this, 

to welcome its disruption,

watch our settled history shrink,

slide away to nothing,

as a vanished drop of water fades.

There were no good old days. 

4. 

An early morning, tender spring,

a flag in every room by law,

and every child stands to sing

the chanted pledge they learned last fall.

To those who’ve truly sacrificed,

the human hearts who gifted service

or their lives, the dearest price,

this forced allegiance serves no purpose.

Not bad

as far as rote oaths go

but you cannot love

what you do not know.

5. 

Our heroes return to their homes broken

with limbs like phantoms,

their smiles made of rust and sand.

Remember 

as though you stand

under the bone-white columns 

of the Parthenon:

War and Wisdom

hand in hand, embodied in

Athena, patron of the brave,

counselor of heroes.

We have a democracy to save.

And as we honor and remember 

we must embrace the mist and see

there is no honor in holding up 

the tiny, fractured, 

one-sided piece of a story.

The truth cannot destroy the potential of America,

only strengthen the

sweet whispered promise

of what we can be, 

when we demand the self-evident truths

and call upon the promises made in 1776

to 

at last 

be kept.