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Language in the town of Wyelle
is communally woven
by teams of spiders,
each one trained and selected for
a distinct word in the text.
Some words escape:
the corners of the cellars and the backs of cupboards
are full of senseless words,
and sacred texts spread into the wilds around
like an infection

In the forests outside Bairn,
torn by feuds and years-long fights,
trees record the spoken word,
stitch it into their trunks;
it takes three decades for the bark
to harden into legibility.
Among the feuding clans it's said
'Memory need not be perfect
only patient for the trees.'
When many speak at once
a grove will share transcription duties
as secretaries to the feuds

On the western shore of the Shawl Sea
writing is permitted only between tides
in the drying and dampening sand;
all words must be gone
by the high tide's turn
or be declared false, anathema.
Their texts are not lost,
so they claim,
for across the sea
the waves recreate each word
erased by the tides
an equal and opposite reaction;
whether the peoples of the coast
mean this literally or not
they will not say, but
in their spoken tales the sea
is often taken to mean death

Daniel Ausema is a writer and poet from Colorado. His poetry has previously appeared in Strange Horizons, and his fiction has appeared in many publications. He is also the creator of the steampunk-fantasy serial fiction project Spire City. He has a background in experiential education and is a stay-at-home dad.
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17 Jun 2024

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