Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
This Is A Picture Of Alexander The Great Feeding Some Birds

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(from a fourth-grade history report)

The illustration reveals our subject in a private moment.
Dressed in purple-crayon shorts and matching beret,
he's got bright yellow balls for shoes
and a mouth like a tight red line drawn south.
He looks worried.

His arms are outstretched in a cross, dropping
what could be stars through stick fingers.
The birds have yet to arrive,
the diamond shaped pellets continuing to drop onto the page.

Across the top in teacher cursive: This has nothing to do with Alexander the Great.

I want to ask, really? Did you see Thebes burn? The ash of the citadel
blown across the Aegean like brain fog. And behind you
the 17 cities you've named for yourself, falling
like sons you'll never kiss. Who doesn't want
to feed something?

It's no cakewalk to the end of the world and the Great Outer Sea.
Your parents, they want to kill each other, and this is all there is—
a flimsy purple raiment between you and the world,
a few breadcrumbs in your pocket,

and nowhere to retreat, your face stamped
onto every coin and cornerstone of the empire.
Even the feet in this picture already
so weary of life's campaign they're reduced to yellow orbs
we might rub like ancient lamps.

Few have known
he played the lyre as a boy,
carried a book of poems into battle.
That he loved his mother.

Can we not believe that even the Great
can be undone
by a stroke of beauty?


Valarie Hastings has published her work previously in Literary Mama and is also published, or soon to be published in Paterson Literary Review, The New Guard, San Diego Poetry Annual, Crab Creek Review, and Marine Poetry Center Anthology, among others. She recently won Honorable Mention in the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize and the Knightville Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Crab Creek Poetry Prize. She is an attorney and lives in San Francisco.


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