Size / / /

I caught her beneath her father's bulk,
his breathing heavy in the dark.

                                             He gives me sweets,

the young girl said,
her eyes watching the ground.
She could not have seen
twelve summers.

                                             Touching me
                                             brings him youth,
                                             he says.
                                             And this way I
                                             can give him thanks.

I let my voice
caress her skin.
You could give him
what he truly wants.

                                             My tongue.

Or the sweetness
of youth
beating through
his veins.

                                             I think—
                                             he likes my little sister more.

I handed her my silver knife
with its handle carved of dragon bone
and prepared the fire of green cut wood,
filling a cauldron with verdant herbs.
A young ram leapt from the copper depths.
She did all the cutting. We watched
the water boil and steam, and breathed
the heavy vapors, smiling
at the fresh scent of herbs, of youth.

Mari Ness is a poet, writer, and scholar of fairy tales, whose work has previously appeared in multiple zines, including here in Strange Horizons. Her poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, is available from Papaveria Press. For more, check out her occasionally updated webpage at, or follow her on Twitter at mari_ness.
Current Issue
17 Jan 2022

The land burns so hot and high tonight that Let can see its orange glow even from the heart of The City of Birds. It burns so thick she can taste the whole year’s growth of leaves and branches on her lips. It burns so fast she can almost hear the deer and cottontails scream as flames outrun them and devour them whole.
I writhe in bed with fever, chills, chatters and shivers. The near becomes far as the far comes close.
No one gets married before going to space.
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Friday: The Cabinet by Un-Su Kim, translated by Sean Lin Halbert 
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