Wing-Feather Fable: Circle-Eyed


The last Cyclops gave his one eye to the gods on the very day they buried him. It was a strange bequest, since the gods themselves had killed him. I imagine he was flustered, befuddled by the weight of death. Though, given all that happened later, it might have been an act of vengeance, both prescient and preemptive.

When the last Cyclops died, his eye began its second life. The gods placed it in a burnished wall, high on Mt. Olympus. Aphrodite used it as a mirror. For Apollo, it was target practice. The eye could always heal. In fact, it had powers curative and salubrious that extended down and out, onto the children of the earth.

In this second life, the eye sought evidence of mercy. The last Cyclops had found none. He was named Katastrophe, though this was neither by his choice nor through his fault. Offspring of the Earth and Sky in all their clamor, he spent several lifetimes locked in Tartarus until Zeus released him for a price. The Cyclops did his part. He forged the weapons of the gods, the lightning bolts and tridents and Hades’ devilish helmet.

All this earned him nothing but a reputation for brutish, simpleminded strength, brawn without the brains. The gods, all debts forgotten, cast him as the villain, a harsh antagonist. When his brother, blind Polyphemus, died of mange contracted from his sheep, the last Cyclops left the world behind. On a nameless Artic island, he tallied up the stars. At three million four-hundred-thousand and eleven, Apollo slew him with a bow and arrow that Katastrophe himself had forged. The irony went unspoken.

A thousand years went by. The eye found mercy in unlikely places — a penniless nun, an unhappy princess, and the stories of a Holocaust survivor. In the reflection of the eye, mercy seeped down upon the earth, and, slowly, slowly, the gods began to die. They fell to hubris and inertia and a virulent form of measles. When the last god crumbled into dust, the wall that housed the eye fell from Mt. Olympus to Chicago where it seemed always to have been.

There, the eye began its third and final incarnation. It’s burnished metal frame was like a hero’s shield. The eye turned towards compassion. It caught and held the sun, directed it at shadows. It sought the lonely and discarded, soul-children of Katastrophe. It found slaves and prostitutes, the broken, slashed, and seared, hearts turned into lead. Small children, castoffs, and the aged.

In the beam of its own light, the eye sloughs off bitterness and injury. It whispers solace. It bears witness. It melts the hearts of lead. It is primordial and vast, for we have yet to plumb the limits of compassion. Sometimes, in deepest darkness, the eye believes it hears the sigh of it’s last owner, Katastrophe. Then, never short of grace, the eye sings wordless lullabies, and the Cyclops, comforted and solaced, dead these many years, finds peace.

~ Photo by Brenda Gottsabend; Story by Lisa Ahn

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10 thoughts on “Wing-Feather Fable: Circle-Eyed

  1. Pingback: Wing-Feather Fables: Circle-Eyed | How to Feather an Empty Nest

  2. As soon as I took this image, I knew it was meant to be a fable photograph – but, as always, I am in awe of the places your imagination takes you from my visual jumping off point. Another fable winner!

  3. This is one of my favorites, Lisa! How you take Brenda’s stunning photograph and wield this fable so beautifully is simply amazing! I love how you conjure up images of gods and titans and lead the story to the present–so very clever. And I love that the Eye ends up Chicago and finds mercy to let Katastrophe finally rest.

  4. You embody the beauty of the artist: the ability to see things others do not. Your gift (of words and insight) is powerful! Another job well done. Hope you’re feeling better (I believe you were under the weather this past week)?

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