Mother of Gods and Men

midwinter brings

warm hearth and clean bed

for victory provides bread—

but bread only


as I wake on the jungle floor

alone apart for a man

in a rusty Volkswagen tro-tro

waiting for a fuel pump


he’s been here three days

and I do not wish to leave him

for he is poor and has shared

what little food he’d had


wandering into the trees

to stretch my legs

I kneel and pick up a toad

odd I think…


these look like toads

I caught as a boy

why then did we not

have baboons or hippos?


the prior week in a slave cell

of Cape Coast Castle

I’d lain upon a rucksack

reading by candlelight

of guns germs and steel


trying to think of a causal gap

a great leap forward


I imagined the spring sun

nurturing a tree of golden acorns—

below them in the grass

awaited a toad


much like the one I held

save for a diamond

set deeply in its brow


looking into the stone

strange images came to light


on a battlefield I lay

shield before me

and scrawled upon it in Latin:

in barter for two brothers

or eight cousins


and like that perceptual

young girl/old woman


(what you see depending on how

you focus your attention)

I watched an egg

use a swan

to craft another egg


and a rock fell from the heavens

of its own volition


but thinking back

to that Diamond

the one that spoke of fates

I was reminded of The Stonecutter


and that even Zeus

transformed into a swan

in order to taste of Leda


and whether the winds of Fate

drape us in diamonds

or defunct fuel pumps


we all lie naked

and at the mercy of her whim


Contributor’s Notes: David R. Cravens received his undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Missouri and his master’s degree in English literature from Southeast Missouri State University. He was the recipient of the 2008 Saint Petersburg Review Prize in Poetry, the 2011 Bedford Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for Ohio State University’s The Journal William Allen Creative Nonfiction Contest. His work has also appeared in Ontologica: A Journal of Art and Thought, EarthSpeak Magazine, The Houston Literary Review, Albatross Poetry Journal, The Monarch Review, The Interpreter’s House, Willows Wept Review, The New Writer Magazine, Poetic Diversity, Red River Review, and is forthcoming in War, Literature & the Arts. He teaches composition and literature at Mineral Area College.