My mother always told me
to pick up after myself. Didn’t yours?
Shameful, the sea-scratched skin on the sand;
it will rub against you like a bedfull of crumbs,
like a kitten’s tongue licking,
like a lash in the eye. I
will keep it for you, wash it clean,
fold it like a new shirt, put it away
where the gulls won’t peck at it. Imagine! A gull for a wife!
Would you not rather have me?
Amal El-Mohtar travels a great deal, but a carefully blended mixture of Outaouais riverdamp, cedar needles, and Damascene dust applied to her soles ensures that she’s never too far from home. She is currently pursuing the elusive beast that is a PhD in Cornwall, England, sharpening her quills for the hunt.
Her poems have appeared in numerous online publications, including Mythic Delirium, Chiaroscuro, Abyss & Apex, Aberrant Dreams, Sybil’s Garage, Astropoetica and Star*Line; The Honey Month, a collection of spontaneous poetry and prose written to the taste of twenty-eight different honeys, is available from Papaveria Press. Amal also blogs at Voices on the Midnight Air, and co-edits Goblin Fruit, an online quarterly dedicated to poetry of the fantastic, with the notorious Jessica P. Wick, who is known to have shaved two letters off her last name in a vain attempt to hide her true nature.
Jessica Paige Wick survives earthquakes, wildfires and internet malfunctions (phew, that last) on a semi-regular basis. She lives in California, where she co-edits Goblin Fruit with that most nefarious of editrices, Amal El-Mohtar. She likes masks, foxes and descent myths. The topmost books on the pile by her bed are Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu, and Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Was A Junior / Betsy and Joe.
Their clever fingers held the sheet
on three sides, gripped it like a secret
clutched close to the heart, like the stars
they dreamt of in the darkness. White
was the colour of difference, a sharp
hot teasing behind their eyes, that saw only sky
when the sky was dark, and darkness, the sky.
It wound about them like a sheet
made for binding wounds sliced sharp
as shards of obsidian, sharp as a secret
whispered splintering into the ear. White, white
as the moon-scratched snow, they dreamt the stars.
But stars will not stay in dreams. Stars,
with their many pin-points, long to prick the sky
to tearing, tearing, long to spindle their white
needle arms into the soft, sweet velvet sheet
and tease from it a secret
hot and sweet and sharp.
One sister wept. “Sharp
are my dreams, tonight, sisters; these stars
will not stay put, wriggle and prick my secret
thoughts ’till the wide dark sky
seems like nothing more than a sheet
of water that thirsts for white
to drink, white
to shine like darkness on hematite. O, sharp
are my dreams, sisters, so sharp that this sheet
we keep shall be chewed ragged by these moth-like stars
who hunger for the sweet black sky
that we grip like a solemn secret.”
They worked together in secret,
teased scissors from their dreams, white
and silver in handle and blade. They cut up the sky
to spare it pain, made each hole sharp
enough to fit the many-fingered stars,
sharp as a nightbird’s cry, or the cracks in a sheet
of ice. They worked ’till the sky was no longer one secret,
’till it was was a sheet of music reversed, white
on blueblack, and the scissored night
rang sharp with the singing of stars.
Jess asked me — or rather told me, as is her wicked wont — to “write a sestina for the sisters who cut the stars into the sky.” I picked the end words, started, and about midway through had to restart because I’d messed up the sestina order and was trying to be a purist about it. It was a bit heartbreaking, because I’d come to love the stanzas I’d written for that order, but this is what came of it. I can’t help but think of it as somewhat diminished from what it was, but hopefully only in the way of the poor scissored sky.