Size / / /

For Peter Nicholls

Six-hour-roasted lamb
falls like wine jelly
from pale shoulder-bones.

—The ghoul wraps
all the way around the spine,
she says with pride.
We laugh,
but undead iceblock fingers
reach through our coats
to count our vertebrae.

—I always had a soft spot
for Queen Zenobia, he says,
gave her a vampire-mage
to change the future,
change the past.
We nod. If only, in real life,
we could do that.

—Bertie buried the missing
pancake under my pillow
as if it was a bone, she says.
Strange brave boy: such a high bed,
and beagle legs so stumpy-short.

One whose absence at the table
pulls like a missing tooth
faces a tricky day, I tell them.
Three years ago, armed
with far worse news,
he'd dodged a dentist's
pointless laundry list
of drillings, fillings, crowns.
Why endure that pain,
when doctors gave him
less than two years?

It was a silver lining
of a poor sort
but worth shining.

Now, palpably not dead,
—not yet—
he'd snapped a tooth.
How to explain his undead state
to the white-coated man?

We laugh like ghoulish drains
at his embarrassment.
Each day he's here
is extra joy.

When he must go away,
he'll leave a gap
no dentist,
however bright his tools
or sharp his skills,
could ever fix.

Jenny’s poems and stories have appeared in august Australian and international literary journals and anthologies, as well as Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Cosmos magazine, and multiple Rhysling anthologies. Her latest collection from Pitt Street Poetry is The Alpaca CantosEagle Books published her ghostly middle-grade adventure The Girl in the Mirror in October 2019. She is jennyblackford on Facebook and @dutiesofacat on Twitter.
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20 Mar 2023

Strange Horizons will be open to fiction submissions on April 26th, 2023, at 9 a.m. UTC! To keep our response times manageable and submission windows more frequent, there will be a 1,000-story cap on submissions.
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