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Leaving Mithra

by Sari Krosinsky

Persian frontier, 520 BCE

“Did you have to take the horse?” Mithra scowled behind me, unnerving tall. Asva shook his hair into the sunlight, flared his nostrils.

“I didn’t take him,” I said. “He came.”

Mithra kicked out the fading embers of last night’s fire. Dust and ash rose to his knees, hung in the air. “They burned better than this for you. You should have gone back.”

A silver helmet etched with his thousand ears and eyes shadowed his brow. “Is there any reason, Kavi,” he said, his throat clenched, “I shouldn’t crush your skull like the daeva you’ve become?”

“Did I break a contract? I didn’t know I’d made any.”

“Why can’t I see through your eyes anymore, Kavi?”

I pressed my face into Asva’s flank, told Mithra he’d forgotten what it meant to be a god, not the lackey of this yearling Mazda. The sun on his helmet flashed white. “I remember.”

Cupping my cheek in his hand, he said, “You’re out. You’ll never be worshipped, your true name never spoken again.” I reached to keep his hand on my cheek, but it was gone. “At least you won’t remember what you’re missing.”

He flamed brilliant and vanished into a thousand eyes.

In that moment before I forgot everything until the birth-fire, because I knew he wasn’t listening, I whispered, “Thank you.”

Letter to Mithra
New York City, now

I’ll burn this letter to you, my old friend. I don’t think we’ll meet again. I can’t feel your eyes in this continent of broken covenants.

Maybe you got a pad in Bombay, close to the few who still keep you. Maybe you retired to the penthouse cage Ahura Mazda made for you, shuttered from the world by mountain walls and a thousand stars, watching us in permanent sun.

Just as well; I don’t think I could bear your light now. And I know what you would say — our oaths still stand.

But we are old gods and the world has forgotten us. Let our quarrels pass as we have. Let men cling to what they can build up and tear down. They can’t see the beauty of their breakable flesh, not as we can.

This is my last sacrifice to you, lord Mithra, sleepless and ever-awake. Consider this my gift to you — the love for which you flung me from the heavens, for which you gave me life.

— from A God’s Life

Copyright © 2011 by Sari Krosinsky

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