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My pupils sizzle into pinpricks
at the sudden light,
corrugated roof peeling back
like a tin can’s lid.

For longer than you think,
I have lived in this fox-body,
loved darkness with my needle-teeth,
rolled in earth to hold its scent,
screamed in winter at gently popping trees,
stolen savory beating hearts buried
deep in feathered bodies.

Your son holds the lantern high,
and I, caught and cornered,
jaws locked around a chicken neck,
wonder how long it has been
since I was human, whether
justice is still as tricky as knowing
where to bite, and who
left the boy’s young face bruised
as the flesh of a dropped peach.

The gunshot is a hot and sulfurous orange,
but the pain is already fading
as I dive into the cool black pool
of the boy’s rapidly dilating eye.

J. Federle is a wandering lover of ghost stories. She left Kentucky to study poetry in England. Now she lives in Peru with her husband and cow-colored dog, writing her own ghost stories. The Saturday Evening Post, Threepenny Review, and NoSleep Podcast have published her work. Find more of her writing at and @JFederleWrites (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook).
Current Issue
25 Sep 2023

People who live in glass houses are surrounded by dirt birds
After a century, the first colony / of bluebirds flew out of my mouth.
Over and over the virulent water / beat my flame down to ash
In this episode of  Critical Friends , the Strange Horizons SFF criticism podcast, Aisha and Dan talk to critic and poet Catherine Rockwood about how reviewing and criticism feed into creative practice. Also, pirates.
Writing authentic stories may require you to make the same sacrifice. This is not a question of whether or not you are ready to write indigenous literature, but whether you are willing to do so. Whatever your decision, continue to be kind to indigenous writers. Do not ask us why we are not famous or complain about why we are not getting support for our work. There can only be one answer to that: people are too busy to care. At least you care, and that should be enough to keep my culture alive.
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