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I teach you how to nick the skin between your fingers, worry the cut
open and blow on it with hot salty breath, and wait for slow joints to
grow from the slit. Your new fingers are especially skilled at pulling
up loose floorboards and playing with the tangle of my Spanish moss hair.

You used to have wings, but I nibbled them off long ago. You don't
begrudge it; now you are all limbs, the more to hold on to me with.
Your knees and elbows creak as I bend them this way and that, tenderly
so as not to break them. Your skin ripples with laughter at my manipulations.

I show you how to season a broth to perfection with dried compost and
twigs and pieces of oyster shells. Rhizomes of microscopic mushrooms
float on top as we bathe in it, thick steam tickling deep behind our eyes like pollen.

I teach you to break a walnut out of its shell in one perfect piece
and to swallow it whole. The conjoined twin brains of it make a home
deep in your gut, its filigree roots siphoning nutrients out of your
bloodstream as it waits for the perfect conditions to sprout.

Soon I will cut a piece from my body and hold it in place against your
raw flesh with bandages of vine leaves and training wire. When
synchronous buds emerge from both of our wounds, I will wonder if the
coming blooms will be of the same hue.




Layla Al-Bedawi is a poet, writer, and bookbinder (among other things). English is her third language, but she's been dreaming in it for years. Born in Germany to Kurdish and Ukrainian parents, she currently lives in Houston, TX, where she co-founded Fuente Collective and champions experimentation, collaboration, and hybridity in writing an other arts. Her work is published in Liminal Stories, Mithila Review, Bayou Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, and elsewhere. Find her at laylaalbedawi.com and @frauleinlayla.
Current Issue
20 Sep 2021

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By: Clara Ward
Podcast read by: Kat Kourbeti
In this episode of the Strange Horizons fiction podcast, editor Kat Kourbeti presents Clara Ward's "Motivation Augmentation."
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Art by: Courtney Skaggs
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
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