The Birth of Venus

By: Grace Salter

The surface of Venus is not still. It is a roiling, bubbly mass– all foam and loose droplets of water occasionally springing off and drifting until enough light passes through them that they become like stars, joining the shining pricks of light in the heavens above man.

There is no one left to recall the birth of Venus. No one left in which remain the echoes of her hand, taut, with pale skin delicate enough to show the strong tendons beneath at the slightest flick of a finger, which burst forth suddenly from the cloud of seafoam. The recallings of her outstretched fingers, struggling to find anything to grasp onto so that she might gain the momentum to heave herself out, have faded away like the wisps of long-lost baby hairs on each man’s balding head. They do not remember the roar of the goddess that discovered there would be no aid in her delivery. It was upon her to deliver her own becoming, and thus she learned that from her beginning, she was alone.

They will tell you that she burst from the sea, men such as Botticelli, that she rose in a beautiful shell, glossy as a pearl, the ocean’s surface, soft bread slicked with olive oil. But it should have been assumed the moment that a man took it upon himself to paint the goddess of love that his imaginings would be a lie. They forgot Venus was the goddess of victory, of fertility, prosperity, that those who curried her favor were not merely beautiful; they were powerful in a way beyond the most eloquent of words possessed by even the finest poets ever to walk the earth. Their posture gave kings pause before remembering that they were not the ones meant to kneel; the angles of their shoulders, the gentle slopes of their cheeks, the hard cut straits of their noses, all commanded respect; in every game, battle of swords and clash of words, the goddess peered down at them from the foam above and smiled. 

They reminded her of herself, her champions. The meager scraps of clay pulled together only by a simple consciousness, which could never be compared to the pantheon, were idiotic and had small, pitiful quarrels that would be extinguished by time like a flame under glass, much like their own short spans of time, yet still, she grew fond of them the way a child favored the softest hen with the warmest riverbank clay brown feathers. They struggled against a universe in which they had no foothold, and it was not just the goddess’ favor that struck those surrounding them with awe, but their own cold determination– there was a look in the eyes of every favorite. It told larger men to step back, rulers to avoid their faces. It was hungry and challenging, and no man met their gaze.

It is thought that the gods cast heroes into the stars collectively. That the ones who, in inexplicable opposition of fate, earned the respect and affection of the gods, were molded into constellations by the pantheon to live on forever. The truth of it is that it was Venus. She saw their heroism, the loss of their lives, and remembered the blank static of the foam before she erupted past the surface. She recollected the brief moment where she thought that there must have been nothing beyond, that her entire existence would consist of white, of froth swallowing her skin and filling her eyes and spilling into her throat, floating up her nose and clogging her breath. She thought of the dark underworld where Hades dwelled, and at the death of the first hero, she dipped a hand into the foam, into herself, and, fanning her fingers, flung the palm full of sea foam into her surrounding heavens, forming the first of the constellations of men.

She watches on still. She has become pickier– it is hard to make heroes in an era without twisted, malformed black and white scenes of morality. It has become a world with such powerful weapons and meaningless words; lies are honored, and truths and oaths have been long since forgotten; there are hardly any heroes left. But those who remain? They are surely steered by visions of soft foam.

Venus lounges in the sky. Her hair is tangled and damp, dark with the wet of foam and bright with the refracted light of bubbles and air pockets surrounding her and the droplets of water that she blows off her fingertips to watch dance with the stars. 

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