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This poem is part of our 2014 fund drive bonus issue! Read more about Strange Horizons' funding model, or donate, here.

The city does not love you as you wanted to be loved.

Don't be surprised.
These ways are inhuman ways:
no midnight phone calls,
no possessive hand curved on your waist
when you stood on the pier
and took the sea-wind full in the throat.
Nothing of the city is only and ever yours.

(You were there the night the last one went into the water.
Black windbreaker flaring unzipped, his face
a featurelessly distant smudge descending.
A man does not survive such poetry. You knew—)

But the lights are a garland on the river.
You are shakingly cold. This is a vision given to you,
a high-wire communiqué from some impenetrable and dancing god.
You spent a week
knees tucked under your chin,
the dawn sliding grey-gold
over the glass and the steel.
The machinery is inescapable.
A net of bridges has caught you up.

You could drown of luck.
Never anywhere but the right place:
the hissing iris of a subway door; the club's
bright and razored lacuna of your night.
Snow fell for ten minutes out of a clear sky.
I told you not to be surprised. It was the new year
and you were hardly human yourself,

ready to dive into the Hudson and come back
a bride-ring clutched between your perfect teeth.




Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Under both names she writes about border politics, rhetoric, propaganda, and the edges of the world. Arkady grew up in New York City and, after some time in Turkey, Canada, and Sweden, lives in Baltimore with her wife, the author Vivian Shaw. Her debut novel, A Memory Called Empire, comes out in March 2019 from Tor Books. Find Arkady online at arkadymartine.net or on Twitter as @ArkadyMartine.
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26 Feb 2024

I can’t say any of this to the man next to me because he is wearing a tie
Language blasts through the malicious intentions and blows them to ash. Language rises triumphant over fangs and claws. Language, in other words, is presented as something more than a medium for communication. Language, regardless of how it is purposed, must be recognized as a weapon.
verb 4 [C] to constantly be at war, spill your blood and drink. to faint and revive yourself. to brag of your scars.
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