If I were a goddess
by Caroline Johnson

If I were a goddess
I could turn enemies
into natural forms—an ibis,
a ram, a crow, a laurel tree—
if they displeased me.

I could ride on the back of Pegasus
and visit starry-eyed Andromeda,
bride of the hero Perseus who stole
the only eye of the three Greek sisters
in order to slay snake-headed Medusa.

I would thank Prometheus for fire
and set him free from his shackles,
then disguise myself as a she-wolf
or lamb and attempt to seduce
whoever catches my eye.

My followers would leave incense
at my temple, burn a constant
fire at my altar, bring me generous
gifts of myrrh, flowers and olive oil.
My veins would burst not with blood

but with the tectonic plates of the earth.
My teeth would scatter across the soil
like seeds. My back would bear wings.
I would consult the oracle for my fortune,
who might tell me to heed blind men.

If I were born from foam like Aphrodite,
I could use the stars as stepping stones.
drench the globe with my tears, swallow
destruction and chaos, cast a spell upon
the unfortunate, in an effort to end hate.

But if I were Athena, I would bypass
any messy childbirth and emerge
fully grown, bearing shield and armor,
straight from the head of Zeus.
Only then could I spin the threads

of apathy and indifference, changing
them one by one into enlightenment.

SOURCE:  This poem has been accepted for publication by Kind of a Hurricane Press and is forthcoming in an anthology entitled Reflections.

IMAGE: “Pallas Athena” by Gustav Klimt (1898).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 2014 I began an effort to raise money for a local food pantry by canvassing people I knew to challenge me to write a poem based on a word or a theme. Various people donated money for that effort. This particular poem was written in response to the word “enlightenment.” I also was listening to a CD of Ovid’s Metamorphosis at the time, hence the Greek mythology.


Caroline Johnson
has two poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork. In 2012 she won First Place in the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Poetry Contest, and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has published poetry in Lunch Ticket, Red Paint Hill Journal, Encore, Chicago Tribune, Uproot, The Quotable, Rambunctious Review, Kind of a Hurricane Press, Blast Furnace, Origins Journal, Naugatuck River Review, and others. She has led workshops for veterans and other poets on such topics as Poetry and Spirituality, Speculative Poetry, and Writing About Chicago. She is currently seeking a publisher for her full-length poetry manuscript on caregiving.

PHOTO: The author enjoys looking for ideas for poetry and enlightenment. Her all-female book club is entitled “Goddesses.” Photo taken in San Miguel, Mexico (January 2016).