self-portrait as semiramis, raised by doves

My mother was goddess of water and by water she perished, plunging herself headlong into the sea.

She had fallen in love with a mortal boy and we all know that nothing good could come of that.

Found herself with child. Found herself in a family way and the mortal boy too delicate and too trembling to be of use.

Invoked the doves to tend to me: Stout-bodied birds who fed me figs and apples and pears. Crop milk

from their beaks into my mouth.

I am daughter of a goddess and didn’t they try to teach me flight? But I did not fly. Did not sprout wings. Stood

with arms outstretched overlooking the swift river and held

my breath –

Found my own mortal man, took him to the coast. Watched his brown legs glisten in spray of salty sea. In his golden arms he

carried me for miles.

Then married to a king. Royal lines are not so easily interrupted.

There were others of course, slain by their own hands too powerful was my tragic beauty.

Such is the currency of the gods.

But did I not build up great Babylon? Erect high brick walls behind which, under shade, I lay down with my turtledoves 

not flesh of my flesh but my own.

Was destined to be queen. Empire stretched from Caucasus to Arabia; Iran to Cyprus. Built palaces in Persia.

Created an army of false elephants to show our great strength.

And all the while, cries of mourning doves. And all the while mother so still in her watery grave: All the terraces and gardens

all the reeds and lush trees

all the armies of elephants and mortal men

could not bring her back.