Three Myths

Machines of Flesh

He dreamed of what we have, sowing
fecund little seeds in consenting heads:
at night, wiping his furrowed brow,
leaning heavy on his walking stick,
spirals of wiry chest hair poking out
from under his tunic. Ungodly body,
ungovernable after all, blood and bones
soft and yielding. And every day
the same Olympian hammers to swing
and anvils to crush. He tinkered
with his tables to give them three legs,
crafted in his own damaged image,
golden legs and golden wheels
spinning on their own, moving
with no need of him. Freeing him
for more artful matters. The tripods’
steely hearts beat like drums, more
animal than human, all precious metal
and mechanism, slowly turning corporeal.
Ancient themes don’t rust or rot,
built to outlive our mortal technology.
The gods are rewiring our brains, writing
code, odes to modern monsters: half men,
half machine.

The Artificer

In his atelier he set about sketching
slim-hipped sylphs to assist day
to day, brought them to life on his
bellows. They made things easier:
sometimes he just needed to sit for
a minute, to rest his frail foot while
they packed his tools away in the
strongbox. Then there was the one
he made special for a VIP,
sculpting her form from water and
earth, burnishing her arms and legs
golden, endowing her well, charms
impossible to resist. All the gods
grinned impiously as they breached
her with their mighty aspects.
A beautiful evil. All-gifted girl,
manmade woman, crafted with
spite and skill. Given away at
our peril. She never had free will—
they made her like this, filling the jar
themselves. They even left a note as bait,
sadistic souls. So, who’s deceitful?

Creator of Many Devices

Enthroned in his workshop, a serene
shining studio guarded by frosted glass,
the idol takes up today’s task.
The worshippers are waiting for a new
place to store their faith. Jazz in the air,
twenty tables laid with cooled metal.
The room’s all white like heaven or a
hospital, a gateway. But he sweats
like a human, yells with mortal temper,
new age music in the background.
The old gods got their hands dirty,
their goddess wives did whatever
they pleased. You can read all about
it on the painted vase. Deities—
they’re just like us. But look what
he’s made: this object of pure beauty.

*

Alexandra Haines-Stiles is a graduate of Harvard and Oxford, where she studied twentieth century literature and language. Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, The Missouri Review, Clementine Unbound, and elsewhere. She lives in New York and London.

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