Size / / /

The snuff-goblin liked the paper & wax castle,
crouched in the garden, late into the night.
He told me about real swans, how they swim,
fight, give chase and honk loudly.

The tin soldiers stared, always,
all twenty-five leering brothers.
I heard their lecherous murmurs inside the box.
For my sake, no one let them out at night,

however they rattled their sabers.
But the one hid, to ogle and leer,
all day and night, as if the snuff-box
hid the boring drill of his eyes.

Against tin, paper is useless:
his sword could rip me to tatters.
The snuff-goblin tried to warn him off,
obliquely, to not raise his ire at me;

a cloud of dust cannot be cut or pierced.
I posed en pointe as I was made, stared
at the clock to distract myself from his hungry gaze,
his blue and red uniform like a bruise, his blade.

When the children put him in the window,
my legs stopped cramping, my stomach eased.
When the draft caught him, sent him tumbling,
I felt safe in my castle again.

His brothers were too distraught by the loss
of their youngest sibling to crudely threaten,
though the canary strained her voice
to drown out their vengeful songs in the dark.

Still, I was at home, and protected.
No one would lift their lid, let them loose
to do what they would with their swords.
Soldiers are made to storm castles,

take the spoils, including the women.
It was in their tin like ballet in my paper.
I practiced my positions indoors in the dark
while the nutcrackers leapfrogged outside.

Sometimes we held balls in the castle.
The soldiers grumbled, but the music
swallowed their protests, and I danced
without catcalls or roving eyes, for joy.

When the cook came in with the one-legged soldier
I almost crumpled, but the children were there
so I endured his single-pointed gaze.
The snuff-goblin heard the commotion, though.

The children look right through him,
see only dust motes falling, even in the day.
He scampered up a boy's shoulder,
whispered something into his ear.

When the child seized the leering tin man,
pitched him into the stove, I wanted to cheer
as I watched him glow red, even though he stared
even as his paint melted, drops of his tin dripped away.

The goblin did not cause the draught. I saw him
in his snuffbox, watching the soldier turn liquid.
Pure chance wafted me into the fire.
The soldier took it for devoted self-immolation.

I did not wish to be watched like prey.
I wanted to dance, to watch the swans,
hold soirées, tarantella with the toys.
Burning to a cinder is not a declaration of love.

The snuff-goblin rescued my tinsel rose,
planted it in the garden where nothing grows.
The swans are still in the water made of foil.
He tells me stories of dancing warriors, dodging blades.

Elizabeth R. McClellan: lawyer by day, poet at odd hours. Her work appears in or is forthcoming from venues including Apex Magazine, Goblin Fruit,, Niteblade, Stone Telling, and The Moment of Change. She edited the 2014 Rhysling Anthology. Follow her on Twitter at @popelizbet for excessive references to Titus Andronicus.
Current Issue
20 Jan 2020

By: Justin C. Key
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Justin C. Key's “One Hand in the Coffin.”
By: Jessica P. Wick
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Jessica P. Wick's “Sap and Superstition.”
I love the idea of representing folk stories and showcasing the culture of my country in a different way.
But I thought of apple skin clinging to a curve, yet unshaped by apple-sorcery.
Corey slipped his hand into the puppet’s back, like he had done many times with the doctor who made him talk about Michael and bathtubs and redness. His breath and stomach squeezed whenever he reached into dark, invisible places.
Wednesday: Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey 
Friday: Small Waiting Objects by T. D. Walker 
Issue 13 Jan 2020
By: Julianna Baggott
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Terese Mason Pierre
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Terese Mason Pierre
Issue 6 Jan 2020
By: Mitchell Shanklin
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Nikoline Kaiser
Podcast read by: Nikoline Kaiser
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 23 Dec 2019
By: Maya Chhabra
Podcast read by: Maya Chhabra
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 16 Dec 2019
By: Osahon Ize-Iyamu
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Liu Chengyu
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 9 Dec 2019
By: SL Harris
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jessy Randall
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 2 Dec 2019
By: Sheldon Costa
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Mari Ness
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 25 Nov 2019
By: Nisa Malli
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Nisa Malli
Issue 18 Nov 2019
By: Marika Bailey
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Alicia Cole
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 11 Nov 2019
By: Rivqa Rafael
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Mary McMyne
By: Ugonna-Ora Owoh
Podcast read by: Mary McMyne
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 28 Oct 2019
By: Kelly Stewart
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Kelly Stewart
Monday: Aniara 
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