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The lies our wise queen weaves cinch her chest.
“I am a dutiful wife,” she says. Breath hitches.
Expert hands guide the weft, tightens her skin.
Lies criss-cross Penelope's breast. Smile falters.
“Any other woman would do the same."
Her tapestry suffocates. Her weaving continues.
This is another thing she endures alone.

The sun sets and Penelope’s bra falls.
Lies she unweaves while her binder unhooks
warp weights—woman wife mother daughter-in-law queen.
She rearranges her fabric-bound breasts and—
flattened, warped—forgets them.
“A dutiful spouse,” she whispers, and her reflection agrees.
Penelope can finally breathe now.

Weft and warp felled, her loom stands naked, free
to weave a tapestry of heart, not expectations.
Years she’s waited. She’s wasted and wanted.
She’s re-borne those weights, re-weaved these lies.
Tomorrow, is Penelope the one strong enough to string
a new warp?

The binder our fair regent wears shapes their chest.
“I am a dutiful spouse,” they say, and smile.



Penny Stirling edits and embroiders in Western Australia. Their speculative fiction and poetry can be found in Lackington's, Interfictions, Heiresses of Russ, and other venues. For more of Penny's aromantic nonfiction visit their website or follow them on Twitter.
Current Issue
21 Sep 2022

There is little more inspirational than a writer who devotes her talents to the work of others.
I was twelve when my mother was born. Twelve or thereabouts. If I’d been older, I could have said things like I never wanted to be a daughter; I don’t have a filial bone in my body. Relatives could have tilted their heads at me, insisting I’d change my mind. But I was twelve so I said nothing. I had no relatives.
a few miles from the fallout zone. / You double-check the index card
Unripe morning / cut open too soon
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