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)
© 2020 Leah Bobet