certain things are expected of her.
At Wellesley, they wouldn't let her keep her owl in the dorm,
so she made the first of many fateful decisions and told them to stick it.
Athena sits inside the bus kiosk on 8 Mile Road,
the one that some drunk smashed one of the windows out of with a trash barrel.
She hasn't got the fare,
and her crappy Payless shoes aren't making the walk seem very appealing.
Beside her on the bench is a beat-up backpack.
Behind her, doing a brisk business, is a fish market that must be some alley cat's dream.
For a while, she had a waitressing job at a Coney Island place in Detroit.
Her name tag said "Minerva", and she was on her feet for twelve hours at a time,
setting down plates of gyro petas or feta omelets
for fat truckers and hip hop fakers
while Seger sang about Main Street from the speakers in the ceiling.
Athena is tired, and none of the old Olympian crowd ever calls anymore.
The number 17 Gratiot Avenue bus goes by,
heading east and spinning old plastic grocery bags into the air behind it.
Athena does not smoke or drink, at least not anymore.
She's not a bad gal;
when she's got a dollar she buys cat treats for Shopping Cart Bonnie's little stray,
but today Bonnie's off her meds and is having a screaming match with nobody anyone can see.
Athena thinks about packing it in,
mostly because her feet hurt and her looks are gone
and 8 Mile Road is so trashy it makes a girl feel she's failed just by being there.
Three things will decide her future:
the condition of the stars tonight; their nearness, the perfection of the constellations, or their absence because of clouds or impenetrable indigo--
the number of headlights heading west on the 8 Mile Road overpass, as opposed to those traveling east. Even numbers denote harmony, odd numbers warn of injury and loss.
the activities of her owl; if the bird returns in the dawn with jewels, gorgeous poems, or small animals with fur as soft as mercy, then she will kiss his feathers and believe that she is still a woman to be reckoned with, the Keeper of the Bolts; but if the bird never comes back at all, or returns wounded, trailing a leg or a wing, she will know her own days are numbered.
It is getting dark and the fish market is closed.
The last 420 bus to the State Fairgrounds has already passed by,
and Athena is still sitting inside the kiosk,
no place for a lady to linger for long.
She's looking for the stars,
and the bird associated with her name when she was Somebody--
Not like now.
Not like this.
Not on a bet.
for Fireblossom Friday