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The Death of the Gods

It was only her eyes that changed; gently,

until one day she saw about her not grace

but men: fragile in their frailties, their palms’

spread wingspan just as wide as her own hands.

They were born together, youths together, fought

arms linked in the grass-shot fields of Troy,

grew tall together: wan shadows of the gods.

 

In their days of beating higher for rumoured

mountaintops, their every step was ghosted

by those uncertain years: the torn-up seedlings

on their boots; the night Aglaia leaned sword-point

against the earth and wept, palm wide, into her hand.

Fleet of foot they ran along the twisting alpine roads,

and always behind them those awful nights,

limned with mud, mortality. They dreamed their

weakness on the trail, each hand wide as each.

 

On a spring day, rain-touched, later, she brought

her children to the coast, and they ate ice cream

from the first stall open on the pier. The fields were

greened over; there was a monument, here lies, and

for a while she walked, pointing out young hazel trees

or Aglaia’s furrow in the earth, until she said: there once

were giants, and led them among the graves.

 

In the old times they heaped barrows. The gods had

barrows still, on the battlefield where some nights, she

looked up and saw them wheeling overhead. Her children,

born godless, scrambled joyfully uphill, shouting king

of the mountain; chased each other off the peaks.

The afternoon was mild. The wind wrapped their cheeks

like swaddling cloth, like first wool, and she lay down

next to the impossibly small mounds, measured the

barrows left of them: man-sized, each wide as each.

 

At twilight they came upon their mother: palm open,

spread wide, her fingers five wet feathers stained with

grief for all that none of them had ever truly been:

glorious and shining, immortal, sure of step—her

sky-giants, striding in a rare angle of light, one fleeting

and just right to cast a shadow.

 

For Gene Wolfe. For Ursula K. Le Guin. For Madeleine L’Engle.

 

(Editors’ Note: “The Death of the Gods” is read by Erika Ensign on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, Episode 32B)

 

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Leah Bobet

Novelist, editor, and critic Leah Bobet’s novels have won the Sunburst, Copper Cylinder, and Aurora Awards, been selected for the Ontario Library Association’s Best Bets program, and shortlisted for the Cybils and the Andre Norton Award. Her short fiction has appeared in multiple Year’s Best anthologies and been transformed into choral work, and is taught in high school and university classrooms in Canada, Australia, and the US. She was guest poetry editor for Reckoning: creative writing on environmental justice’s 2021 issue and her own poetry has appeared in both genre and literary journals through Canada and the United States.

She lives in Toronto, where she makes jam, builds civic engagement spaces, and plants both tomatoes and trees. Visit her at www.leahbobet.com.

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