By Franz Kafka
Translated from the German by James Ackhurst
Poseidon stood at his standing-desk and did the math. Managing the world’s water was a lot of work. He could have hired some interns, as many as he wanted, and he had lots anyway; but he so was obsessive about his role that he always went back through everything, so that interns weren’t all that much use in the end. It’s not that he enjoyed the role really; he did it because that’s where he’d ended up. He’d interviewed for a lot of other roles, but it always turned out that they weren’t quite as good a fit for him as his present role was. It was also really tough for him to find anything else. You obviously couldn’t just put him on one sea in particular; besides the fact that the math didn’t get any easier, just less interesting, only an executive role would have felt right for someone like Poseidon, Forbes CEO of the Year three times in a row in the late 90s. And if you offered him a role outside of water it would trigger his anxiety and bring on a panic attack. There was also the fact that people didn’t follow up his complaints properly. When someone at that level is mad, you have to make some show of doing what he wants, even if it’s pretty much impossible. But nobody really thought about rotating him out of his role. He’d been God of the Seas since the very beginning, so he’d have to stay there.
The thing that annoyed him the most – and this was the root cause of his dissatisfaction with his role – was hearing the kinds of things people said about him, like that he spent his whole time gliding through the waves with his Trident. Meanwhile there he was standing at his desk at the bottom of the goddamn ocean, spending another whole day putting figures into a spread sheet. The only let-up from the monotony were his occasional visits to Jupiter (Olympians Chairman of the Board), and those just made him mad as hell. So he’d actually never really seen the sea, except on early-morning flights to Olympus, and he’d never had a chance to explore it. He used to say he was waiting for the global financial system to completely crash, at which point there might be a bit of a lull in which, after he’d finished his final spread sheet, he might be able to have a quick look around.
James Ackhurst is a Wellington-based poet and translator. He has published poems in takahe, Turbine, Poetry New Zealand, Snorkel, Pericles at Play, and Quadrant as well as an essay on James K. Baxter in The Pantograph Punch. He’s currently working (with Elena Borelli) on a complete English translation of Giovanni Pascoli’s Poemi Conviviali for Gradiva Press. He was one of the featured poets at Poetry at the Fringe in Wellington in March 2016 and won second prize in the takahe poetry competition the same year.
Isis Suckling the Infant Horus
Egyptian, Late Period
3037, Freud Museum London
Artemision Bronze, Zeus or Poseidon
c. 460 BCE, Greece
National Archaeological Museum of Athens