Although the ancient gods are largely gone,
Dying with their dwindling adherents,
A lesser relative lives on,
Born of an improbable coherence:
Splendid and slight, diminutive and grand,
Goblin and god, homunculus and man,
He walks the earth no higher than a hand.
The pocket giant issues from a houri,
The heir of Darius and Xerxes’ distant scion,
And holds condensed the power of the lion,
The will of Ishtar, and Babylonian fury.
A faint uneasiness arises in his presence,
A sense of fear that sees beyond his height
To recognize the cruelty beneath his might,
And in his eyes to glimpse a smoldering essence:
Resentfulness compressed to incandescence,
Explosive at the merest slight.
His muted threat arouses fear,
But he is small, so fear turns to relief,
To incredulity and disbelief:
His victims laugh, then grovel and revere.
Today he struts and paces in his cage,
Savoring triumphs of the Ancient Age —
He who slew the righteous Hammurabi
And murdered Archimedes on a whim;
Soon he will stalk us, glittering and grim,
Sworn to reenact that glorious stage
When brutal, swaggering, and wary,
He sundered worlds, the epoch’s mercenary;
Even now he relishes the rage.