Size / / /

She cannot wear silk—

Too much static electricity.

She cannot wear jewels—

He is jealous of the metal,

Lest it outshine his sleek

And gleaming self.

Instead she wears

Cotton clothes and canvas

Slippers with rubber-crepe soles.

At night, she oils his rod,

His reel, his gears, his engine,

Her little fist sliding over the pistons,

Glistening in the treble moonlight.

She wishes again that she had been

Given to a man, sent to service

Flesh instead of steel, who

Would have a heart that might

In time warm to a woman—

Not a coldly clicking thing

Showing through a glass pane

In a riveted chest.

Some nights, after he leaves,

She sits on the windowsill

Staring into the night,

Towards the market

Where alien merchants sell silk,

And even, in winter,


Elizabeth Barrette writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in the fields of speculative fiction, gender studies, and alternative spirituality. She serves as Dean of Studies for the Grey School of Wizardry. She hosts a monthly Poetry Fishbowl on her blog. She enjoys suspension-of-disbelief bungee jumping and spelunking in other people's reality tunnels. You can email Elizabeth at, and see more of Elizabeth's work in the books Companion for the Apprentice Wizard and Composing Magic, and in our archives.
Current Issue
20 Mar 2023

Strange Horizons will be open to fiction submissions on April 26th, 2023, at 9 a.m. UTC! To keep our response times manageable and submission windows more frequent, there will be a 1,000-story cap on submissions.
It started with a bit of music, something no one else was even listening to.
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Strange Horizons
2 Jan 2023
Welcome, fellow walkers of the jianghu.
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