GARUDA’S GAMBLE, by Colleen Anderson


What was I to do?

Guarding those slippery slithering nagas

who laughed their whispery laughs

Thinking I didn’t know

their mother duped mine over a black horse’s tail

that I protected them from gods such as I?


I couldn’t help but eat a few

snapping them in my strong red beak

One by one, sliding down my throat like worms

After all, I had been set to watch

and no one thought to bring me food

Even gods need nourishment


After too long a while subdued nagas bargained with me

She who birthed your egg, Vinita will be free

only if you bring us Amrita, the water of life

Then great Indra couldn’t stop me though he tried

My light as bright as Agni’s fire blinded him

wings buffeted and smashed his flashing thunderbolt


I plummeted from heaven with the ambrosia of long life

but not before I was tempted to make one more deal

Laying the jeweled vessel on the Kusha grass

I told the nagas they must bathe, be pure before they drank

Away I bore Vinita on my shoulders

Away I flew while Indra stole Amrita back


Desperate nagas writhed over the swaying Kusha grass

licking, slurping any immortal nectar that remained

each blade sharp enough to cut their lying tongues

They all speak with lisps even to this day, claim I deceived

but who are they to talk when they had spit black deception

on the great white horse’s tail and fixed my mother’s bet




Colleen Anderson is a three-time Prix Aurora Award finalist, been longlisted for a Stoker and the Rhysling awards, as well as a freelance editor. New or forthcoming works are in Clockwork Canada, Futuristica Vol 2, Nameless, The Beauty of Death, The Future Fire and others. Her chapbook collection of poetry, Ancient Tales, Grand Deaths and Past Lives is available from Kelp Queen Press. Colleen has co-edited Playground of Lost Toys (Aurora nominated) and Tesseracts 17. She has been a judge for the Rannu competition and part of the HWA Stoker jury, and attends various local and international writing conventions. Currently she is working on an alternate history dark fiction novel and a poetry collection.

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