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
5 Jun 2023

Jackson sat at Kay’s bedside, one of her hands laid atop his, palm to palm, fingertips against the soft inside of her wrist. His fingers measured her temperature and pulse, her blood pressure, and her blood oxygen levels. She was no weaker or stronger today than yesterday. He was unsurprised and uneasy. Her vitals were regular with sleep. She had been resting when he returned from the shore.
You do not mean this as slang.
certain people of the town go outside, kick off their shoes
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