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This poem is part of our 2015 fund drive bonus issue! Read more about Strange Horizons' funding model, or donate, here.

For H.

They tell the story wrong. We were meant to be swans
spiders, peacocks, vixens, snakes. We shifted
one to the other to the other, weavers
of silk and story slipping free of every loom, fluid
under Soma's tidal gaze.

They didn't know we spoke (howls, chitters,
foreign gabble) till they trapped us
in nettles, shaped us with pain,
bound our tongues and tales and called us
saved.

This isn't my story. My mother lost her mother's words,
my nettle-stung tongue lost hers. I speak
as they taught me, and I (ripped
their shirt off years ago) scratch bloody welts
that bind my shape.

They stripped our feathers, broke our jaws
on their unrounded words,
left us (wingless) to mumble
stumble cringe in Engliss only, stole
our tales to study.

We own only our silences, now; but snakes
sting back. We'll crush their tongue
in our coils, swallow whole
and use their words to say
    they tell the story wrong.




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.
Current Issue
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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