Who art thou, worm,
nipping at Herakles’ heels
as thou slitherest past the wary claws
of his milk-mother bears?
Didst thou guard the golden orbs
where they hung from Hera’s boughs
against those pilfering sisters,
A gift of Gaea, golden apples for a golden day
—Hera and Zeus, incestuously joined—
so pleased the bride that she sowed the seeds
in her own garden by Atlas’ slope.
But that giant’s spawn, wanton girls all,
slipped across the lawn to steal the fruit,
sun-yellow juice dripping from their laughing mouths,
and raised the goddess’ ire.
Where did Hera find thee, that she placed thee on guard
on that Hesperidean soil?
Wert thou plucked from thy native land,
forced from the comfort of thine own underground home?
Or did she conjure thee out of ivory and fire
with precious gems in thy ruby orbits,
copper and gold for thine impervious scales,
invulnerable to all but Herakles’ well-aimed blow?
Wert thou slumbering as the hero,
draped in the Nemean’s mane,
crept alongside thy sinewy length
and plunged his blade between the stars that are thine eyes?
Didst thou thrash as thou wert slain,
jaws spread wide, venom dripping from impotent fangs,
wild eyes seeking thy murderer
even as the light left them?
Or art thou a different worm, not the victim of Herakles’ labour
but of his half-sister Athena?
Gods fighting gods, uncles against nephews,
storming the ramparts of Olympus itself;
’Twas the banished first-born with their hundred hands,
giants and cyclops from Tartarus released
who joined the fray to overcome their brothers,
revenge on Chronos posthumously complete.
In the peak of battle, didst thou sleep unperturbed,
belly full, basking in the golden light of noon,
when thou wert scooped up by Titan hands
and cast at the warrior goddess?
She snatched thy dry coppery coils
and hurled thee skyward so thou lodged
in the vault of the heavens, trapped
between a great and small bear.
Mayhap thou art none of these
but the father himself, caught in pursuit
of those milking maids who nursed the hero
thou art forced to chase.
’Twas thy desire to suckle
from those dripping teats
milk meant for thy bastard son
whilst hidden from jealous Juno.
Changed to bears and in the firmament fixed,
thou crept upon them in thy true form,
the seducing serpent, the phallic python,
intent upon slaking thy lust.
Who art thou, Draco of the stars?
Thine origins are multifold, and thou
forever caught in the wheel of the sky
in pursuit of a heel thou canst not bite.