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
18 Sep 2023

Ama’s arm rested protectively around the girl’s shoulder as the giant bird glided above, its head angling right to left. Violet-black wings soared across a cloudless sky, blocking the sun’s midday rays and swathing sections of the village in deep shadow. Given its size, this argentavis was one of her first, but too far above for her to differentiate by name. Even across the distance, Ama could feel its heartbeat synced to hers, their lives intertwined until death.
She is leaving the world that is pink with desire, on her gray cardboard rocket ship.
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