Dionysus of the Downtown
Dionysus buys a coffee for the next one down the line, the most expensive drink on the menu
and smiling, tells the barista to keep the change.
I pay for my own drink anyway; I hate owing the gods anything
and anyway, this is my tithe. I pay my dues
to the newly minted god of service workers, since I know that’s who he is:
Ganymede of the nail salons, of the sno-ball shacks
who has lived on tips and leftovers, who knows the pain of counting pennies
who has worked at night to make ends meet.
The way he pours my mocha makes me tremble with envy
and when he hands me the drink I see why I will pray to him:
with every tip he is closer to moving out
away from the boyfriend a few of us have had
and sometimes you need a god who saves himself.
At the table Dionysus is swaying to the music
and my soul aches to be free enough to dance. Stubbornly, I sit, and keep my feet
from tapping under the table. We’re here on business!
But this is his business; his revolution will have dancing in the Polis streets
for hungry nobodies like me and all my bloodless kin
and tonight I will go home with the bearded god whose body looks like mine
to drink my fill of honey and wine, and, sweating, beg for transformation.
When he has led me down to Death where all his secrets are
and left me sitting by the river of remembering
the truth of why I am here pulls at me like a thousand tearing limbs.
I wanted the easy way out of my own questions;
I did not want to ask if I have made a terrible mistake
if I should change my name, if I am justified in forgetting my parents
if a stranger should decide my life before I’ve even got started
if anyone has the right to break the fourth wall and escape the story
to introduce a new protagonist a quarter through the plot.
How do I know who I am? The doubt bites at me like the jaws of some dark leopard
and like Orpheus ripped limb from limb, I only know I want to die as myself,
not as the stranger who was misnamed at birth.
I am insensate until I cry his name; I come back to myself hollow and shuddering
and the God of Resurrections calls me by a name no one yet knows
but I have wondered if will ever be my own.
He promises me long life, as if statistics bear that out for boys not born as boys
and promises me I am not alone. I know I’m not alone;
there is one god in my tentative image,
another who knows what it is like to tell the oracle they have erred.
In the morning, at the coffee shop, I put a tip in Ganymede’s hands.
He takes my offering as an extra shot of chocolate, no whip
and his gaze is full of sympathetic knowing.
Self-salvation is expensive and every penny’s going to count
but still I give what change I have to the gods who know me.
Lev Mirov is a disabled mixed race Filipino-American who lives with his wife, fellow writer India Valentin, and their two cats near Washington, DC. When not playing a time-traveling medievalist dandy, he writes speculative fiction, fantastical poetry, and gluten-free recipes from around the world. His poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Through the Gate, Liminality, and various anthologies. You can follow him on twitter @thelionmachine.