Athena Holds Up a Mirror to Strength

Girl, you best stop setting yourself on fire,

you may be the phoenix,

but these bones aren’t kindling

to keep others warm—

your spine isn’t a bridge

you need to burn,

and you aren’t a consequence,


remember who you are.


Woman, you a hundred rivers,

each one gathering itself

carefully, unhurried,

unhampered, considerate

of its own current

and nothing beyond that—

this is your magic,

steady and certain,

heart open

but hands full of knives,

Queen of Wands:

remind them who you are.


Goddess, you are both roots

and sky, a gentle hymn

of wolves, keen and hungry,

but a universe of free. Your chest

holds a constellation

of reasonable lives

rearranged by passion,

and this holy crusade

has made you a heretic,

but your blood sings for it,

this legion of flaws, mouth reddened

by your own sins—

High Priestess,

tell them who you’ve been.


(Editors’ Note: “Athena Holds Up a Mirror to Strength” is read by Erika Ensign on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 34A.)



Ali Trotta

Ali Trotta is a poet, editor, dreamer, word-nerd, and unapologetic coffee addict. Her poetry has appeared in Uncanny, Fireside, Strange Horizons, Mermaids Monthly, and Cicada magazines, as well as in The Best of Uncanny  from Subterranean Press. She has a poem forthcoming in F&SF magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in Curtains, a flash fiction anthology. A geek to the core, she’s previously written TV show reviews for Blastoff Comics, as well as a few personal essays. Ali’s always scribbling on napkins, looking for magic in the world, and bursting into song. When she isn’t word-wrangling, she’s being a kitchen witch, hugging an animal, or pretending to be a mermaid. Follow her on Twitter as @alwayscoffee, read her blog at, or subscribe to her TinyLetter. Four of her poems, including three for Uncanny, were Rhysling Award nominees.

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