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She comes into my kitchen for a slice

of black bread, buttered. I've grown so tired,

she says, of cake.

She comes out from the Hill for the last

     of Gran's bitter ale, tells me

nectar wine grows cloying.

     Gran said I cried a year and a day

when she left. I was three.

I am older, now

than the stranger in my kitchen.

I make her coffee, over-roasted

and thick. She reaches

for sugar.

      But Gran made a bowl

of rowan when she left, and spiked it

with horseshoe nails

      to bind me. She stops.

                           All the bitter

in this house, I say, every salt-washed shard

is yours. But the sugar has a price.

And I wait

      for her hand to pull back to its cup

      or not.




Shweta Narayan was born in India and has lived in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Scotland, and California. They feel kinship with shapeshifters and other liminal beings. Their short fiction and poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Mithila Review, Breaking the Bow: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Ramayana, We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology, An Alphabet of Embers: An Anthology of Unclassifiables, Lightspeed: Queers Destroy Fantasy, and Clockwork Phoenix 3, among others. Shweta was the Octavia Butler Memorial Scholarship recipient at Clarion 2007 and was shortlisted for the 2010 Nebula Awards.
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