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My grandfather once
gave me a little

“You could count all the faces
and all the birds in the sky
on this machine,” he told me.

“You could count
every hair
on my body

and every hand
that has ever existed

on this machine.

It is all recorded,

the misfortunes
of all grandmothers

and even the
triumphs of an ant
have been
by the machine.”

Loath to let it go
he turned from me
and hurried inside.

    Left alone
with his machine

I found the answer
  to who my father

        and if I would
ever be held by loving hands.

I learned why my cousin
    took his life

and why I couldn’t take

When I closed the machine

  my grandfather shouted,
      “Never close it!
It needs to keep counting!”

Angel Leal is a Latinx, trans/nonbinary writer whose previous work appeared in Strange Horizons, Fantasy, Anathema: Spec from the Margins, Radon, and elsewhere. They’re a Rhysling and Utopia Award finalist and a coadmin of CALAMITOUS, a queer SFFH writing group. You can find them at or surviving Twitter @orbiting_angel.
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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