Size / / /

They are so lovely, the wild swan girls:
white wings and absence . . .

1.       How to recognize a swan girl.

She will have delicate wrists.
You will be able to circle her wrists
with your hands. No, don't try it:
you don't hold swan girls, not like that.
Any suggestion of captivity sends them flying
off on white swan wings, or on high heels
across a street or continent.

They can't bear to be caught.

No, look at her wrists: skin over bone, with faint
pinpricks where the pinions go.

2.       How to catch a swan girl.

Feign lack of interest.
Stare off into the distance, at a tree perhaps
or a beach, or the New York skyline.
Turn to her. Be polite, almost too polite.
Ask a question to which she doesn't know the answer.
(Will it snow tomorrow? What are clouds made of?
How do you say eternity in Norwegian?)

Interest her, and keep her interested,
or she will fly off.

3.       How to keep a swan girl.

You can't, not in a house or an apartment,
not in a city, sometimes not even a country.
When she telephones, you will ask, where are you?
When she laughs, it will sound
so far away, and in the background
you will hear waves, or a language you don't understand.

4.       How to marry a swan girl.

Steal her coat of feathers.
This part always goes badly.

5.       How to lose a swan girl.

Wait. Eventually, she will go somewhere else.
If you hide her coat of feathers, she will leave without it.
Wait, you say, but I thought . . . Oh, those old stories?
You didn't believe those, did you?

She knows where to get another, and anyway
she doesn't need wings to fly.

6.       How to mourn a swan girl.

Make a shrine, perhaps on a dresser or small table.
Three swan feathers, a candle, a stone smoothed
by ocean waves. That should do it.

Sit on the sofa. Hold one of the feathers. Cry.
Realize it was inevitable.
Swan girls fly. It's just what they do.
It wasn't you.

7.       How to be a swan girl.

There are no rules the sky is infinite
the world is yours laid out in rivers and mountains
like a great quilt pieced by your grandmother.

She is older than they are.

Her hair is white as snow and covers them
her eyes are bright as stars and when she laughs
avalanches.

You take after her.

Swan girl where will you go?
Everywhere you say and then
everywhere else.




Theodora Goss's publications include the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting; the novella-length book The Thorn and the Blossom; and the poetry collection Songs for Ophelia. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Locus, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, and on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Her short story "Singing of Mount Abora" won the World Fantasy Award.
Current Issue
24 Feb 2020

tight braids coiled into isles and continents against our scalps
By: Mayra Paris
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Mayra Paris's “New York, 2009.”
This Mind and Body Cyborg as a queer figure raises its head in Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s 2019 epistolary novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, as two Cyborg bodies shed their previous subjectivities in order to find a queer understanding of one another.
Carl just said ‘if the skull wants to break out, it will have to come to me for the key’, which makes me think that Carl doesn’t really understand how breaking out of a place works.
Issue 17 Feb 2020
By: Priya Sridhar
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: E. F. Schraeder
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 10 Feb 2020
By: Shannon Sanders
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 3 Feb 2020
By: Ada Hoffmann
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: S.R. Tombran
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 27 Jan 2020
By: Weston Richey
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 20 Jan 2020
By: Justin C. Key
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jessica P. Wick
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 13 Jan 2020
By: Julianna Baggott
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Terese Mason Pierre
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Terese Mason Pierre
Issue 6 Jan 2020
By: Mitchell Shanklin
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Nikoline Kaiser
Podcast read by: Nikoline Kaiser
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 23 Dec 2019
By: Maya Chhabra
Podcast read by: Maya Chhabra
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 16 Dec 2019
By: Osahon Ize-Iyamu
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Liu Chengyu
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 9 Dec 2019
By: SL Harris
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jessy Randall
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: