“He makes a world here out of frog songs / and packed earth”: Linda Gregg’s “Hephaestus Alone”

photo (15)Like so many others, I was sad to hear of the death of Leonard Nimoy on Friday. From afar, he seemed like a gentle man, thoughtful and interested in giving what he could to the world. He lived long and prospered, and wished the same for the rest of us.

Much as I love Spock, I’ve never been an aficionado of Mr. Nimoy’s poetry, though I did go hunting today for a poem to feature in his honor. I looked for poems about stars and Vulcan and Spock, but nothing stood out in particular until I came across a poem about Hephaestus (Vulcan is the Roman analogue of the Greek god). It occurred to me that while the behavior of most Vulcans on Star Trek is consistently cool and logical, more Apollonian than anything, underlying that rational exterior is a passionate interior, burning like the fire god’s furnaces, as Mr. Nimoy’s Spock demonstrated more than once.

In Linda Gregg’s poem “Hephaestus Alone,” we see the ardent creativity of the hammer-wielding, forge-tanned, lonely god Hephaestus. Crippled in one of his father’s rages, deserted by his wife, the god labors apart from his fellows, producing works of beauty and mechanical intricacy. Or so it goes in the myths. In this poem, undergirded by that history, we see Hephaestus producing images of the very gods he sets himself apart from, including Aphrodite:

He made his wife
so she contains the green-fleshed
melons of Lindos, thalo blue of the sea,
and one ripe peach at five in the morning.
He fashioned her by the rules, with love,
made her with rage and disillusion.

It’s an intriguing poem, and one that will remind me now of the creative person who gave us a new kind of Vulcan.


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