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This poem is part of our 2016 fund drive bonus issue! Read more about Strange Horizons' funding model, or donate, here.


Content warning:


Stop.
Thief.

I do not know what I took.
I was guarding the nest when the storms came—
guarding you—and then the choking dust,
the ash, the grave. Then these bone-plaster men,
waking me out of my sleep, accusing.

This species does not brood its nest.
How could it? Cold-blooded, primitive,
soulless. She stole them.

I raise my hackles and open my mouth,
but their hands already stroke my brow,
soothing. Mock-soft. We understand.
You are hungry, not wicked; what could be wrong
with hunger?

And I was hungry when I laid you.
Hungry as any mother, staying at the nest,
giving up the hunt to keep you warm.

They measure my rotted-out eyeholes,
my scraped-clean skull. They explain me.
Did you know? My beak, my strong smooth jaw,
is shaped to crack you open and devour you.
My swift legs, to run with you,
far from the punishing horns
of your real mother.

It is all right, they assure me.
It is what you had to do. Any woman would eat a child
if she had to, if it was this or starvation.

I do not know. Can I trust my memory?
I think you were mine. I think I loved you.
But these voices ring so loud, so sure, so vivid
that I can see it in my mind. I can feel
your shell crack, your yolk drip down my chin.
Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe I ate you after all,

my egg, my tiny everything,
who I covered with my body
when the storms came.




Ada Hoffmann is the author of The Outside and Monsters in My Mind. Her writing has appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov's, and Uncanny. She is a computer scientist, a classically trained soprano, and an autistic self-advocate. You can find her online at http://ada-hoffmann.com/ or on Twitter at @xasymptote.
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