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He was the sort of man who wouldn't hurt a fly. Many flies are now alive while he is not. He was not my patron. He preferred full granaries, I battle. My roar meant slaughter. Yet here we are together in the same museum. That's not what I see, though, the fitful crowds of staring children learning the lesson of multi- cultural obliteration, sic transit and so on. I see the temple where I was born or built, where I held power. I see the desert beyond, where the hot conical tombs, that look from a distance, frankly, like dunces' hats, hide my jokes: the dried-out flesh and bones, the wooden boats in which the dead sail endlessly in no direction. What did you expect from gods with animal heads? Though come to think of it the ones made later, who were fully human were not such good news either. Favour me and give me riches, destroy my enemies. That seems to be the gist. Oh yes: And save me from death. In return we're given blood and bread, flowers and prayer, and lip service. Maybe there's something in all of this I missed. But if it's selfless love you're looking for, you've got the wrong goddess. I just sit where I'm put, composed of stone and wishful thinking: that the deity who kills for pleasure will also heal, that in the midst of your nightmare, the final one, a kind lion will come with bandages in her mouth and the soft body of a woman, and lick you clean of fever, and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck and caress you into darkness and paradise.

By Margaret Atwood

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