The modern Hercules wears his golden mane like a cloak
Etched with twelve adventures
Twelve Labours under the Sun.
He is not sure what the Future holds beyond these.
The modern Heracles does not go by this name,
In his lion’s mane nest chickadees;
In his bronze palms he cups butterflies,
And from his soles spring the fleetness of the Elves.
There used to be places for men like these–
Places at the heads of dining halls after the slaying of giants,
Places in the caves of hydras and at the fronts of battlefields.
With one hand, men like this brandished clubs
With the other, they held up the sky.
No, the modern Hercules knows not himself as such:
Wandering as a bard in his own country,
He finds no place set out for him;
He glimpses his broad, gleaming shoulders only in passing
Comparison with other mortal men.
The modern Hercules has no place in this world,
Armed not with a club but a pen or a flute or a camera
Determined to protect and save the beauty he sees everywhere;
Bearing still the weight of the sky.
The modern Hercules cannot name himself,
Though dragons and demons have taught him who he is not.
He has cleaned stables of shit and been to the underworld and back;
He knows where he has been and where he would not like to be.
The modern Hercules sits atop a mountainside,
Tickling the surface of the pool below with one sandled toe,
All his strong frame reflected back in a single delicate ripple.
How, in such a large world,
Can one man find
in a ripple?
The modern Hercules treads lightly among giants and snakes.
He knows where he’s been and he knows where he is going:
Forward into the Sun for the Thirteenth or the Hundredth time,
Though all heros fear the light.