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This poem is part of our 2015 fund drive bonus issue! Read more about Strange Horizons' funding model, or donate, here.

I leave the face for last. It's ethical.
With a blade forged from a newborn star, I cut
away the countenances of my children
and hang them on the wall so they can watch
me eat their bodies. Yes, their faces live;
no violation of the flesh as crude
as this can do them lasting harm. (It hurts
as much as mortal pain; they just survive it.)
They wail, these babes, with toothless, gaping mouths,

and beg me not to take my dire dinner.
I shrug apologetically, and fork
a lotus-languid body from the bowl
of infant bodies to my plate: a girl,
though I cannot tell which one without the face.
I saw a leg and, yes, poor Venus screams.
I bite through anklebone and eat the foot.
I do not chew. I swallow whole as much
as the gullet I was born with will allow.
I'm minimizing agony. I swear.
Not that my suffering sons and daughters care:

Mars swears to take revenge; Diana plots
her tenfold retribution with her eyes.
But Vulcan's tearless consternation hurts
the most. He can't believe my cruelty,
sweet child that he is, will always be.
This savagery is not my own, my son.
Savagery is our context. We compete
to keep our power. We will not die; instead
we will live to witness our irrelevance.
You too, someday. Will you not fight to keep
your purpose in the universe? You will.
No deed will seem too monstrous to prevent
your disassociation, preordained

though it may be. I know this meal's futile.
There lies, at the bottom of my bowl,
a swaddled stone where Jupiter should be.
Your mother spirited him away, in hope
that he will someday save you all. He will.
He'll poison me, and from me all of you
will issue, fully formed, and be reborn.
On that day, children, remember what you saw
today: how I deliberately confessed
the weakness that has turned me cannibal.
Then ask yourself, "Would I not do the same?"
You will, in time, for I am Time, and know
the baleful need to live, inside us all.

When he's not writing SFF, Carlos Hernandez works as an Associate Professor of English at the City University of New York, with appointments at BMCC and the Graduate Center. He's also a game designer and lead writer on Meriwether, a Lewis and Clark CRPG. His first collection of short stories, The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santería, will be published by Rosarium in January 2016.
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