Size / / /

I am:

a warrior

a wife

a crafter of golden bands

to wear around ankles,

covered in story.

I will tell this story in the way I know best.

Golden Band 1: 7th Birthday

Do you see the birds?

I made them: feathers and beaks

hanging above the horizon like the sky,

light as air,

light as a child's golden band,

as my thoughts.

Learning to ride, to write, to sing, to burn alsar:

all was mastery,

even my self.

Golden Band 2: 15th Birthday

Wear gold into confinement:

horizon scenes, sky scenes,

chive-collecting scenes, hunting scenes,

bird scenes,

as open as the caravan is closed,

until marriage, until the safe unit of two.

So many questions:

"Will you marry just for practicality or for sex, for love?"

"Will you marry a woman, a man, those who are neither?"

"What name will you take?"

And I—

I didn't know.

Golden Band 3: 17th Birthday

A marriage, at last.

She chose her name: Falna.

I chose—

Choosing is easy:




We can be our selves. Easy!

Not so easy to reach under skin

under breasts

under clit and vagina

and find self.

"Tadi," I said.

On the band I made for her,

two birds circled: wary.

Golden Band 4: 20th Birthday

I struggled with words:




but not quite true;

they sat on me like plain jewellery: gleaming, comfortable

but mute.

I embossed my golden band:

a woman in a bird-mask,

a man in a bird-mask,

dancing across the chive-sweet land

and I thought that I could be both, I could be neither.


Golden Band 5: 25th Birthday

See the dancers? How

their wings spell out their songs,

their feet grow talons,

their tail-feathers lash the dirt,

their beaks open wide with joy.

I'm 25: I'm getting good at this.

I can't find a form under my skin, a single self

that is my self—

so ignore my skin.

I still use words like "woman" and "wife"

out of habit—

ignore all the words

but one: my name

is the best word I have for who I am.

I am my self: Tadi, a crafter of golden bands

to wear around ankles,

covered in story.

Alex Dally MacFarlane is a writer, editor, and historian. Other historical stories can be read in the anthologies Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories, Missing Links and Secret Histories, and Zombies: Shambling through the Ages. She is currently editing The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women, out late 2014.

Where it is not stated, translations from Ancient Greek are by Sonya Taaffe and translations from Arabic are by Sofia Samatar, used with their permissions, for which the author is deeply grateful.
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