No Poisoned Comb

April 3, 2012

Original

Rhysling Award finalist

Amal El–Mohtar is the Nebula–nominated author of The Honey Month, a collection of spontaneous short stories and poems written to the taste of twenty–eight different kinds of honey. She is a two–time winner of the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem, and edits Goblin Fruit, an online quarterly dedicated to fantastical poetry. Her work has most recently appeared in Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution, edited by Ann VanderMeer, and in Chicks Unravel Time, a volume of essays on Doctor Who edited by L. M. Myles and Deborah Stanish. Find her online at amalelmohtar.com.

For Caitlyn Paxson and Jessica P. Wick

The tale is wrong. I bear no grudge.
A story in the teeth of time
will shift its outlined shape, be chewed
to more palatable stuff.
Thus death; thus cold demands
for a hot hot heart,
for slivers to simmer in warm plum wine
on winter nights.

Nonsense.

They say I told him to bring me her heart,
but I didn’t.

It is a fact well known
that the fashion for wearing hearts on sleeves
has passed. Young girls today,
with their soft looks, their sharp lashes,
wear their hearts as cunning hooks
in their cheeks—that supple flesh
so like to apples, so red, so white,
smelling of fall and summer both,
of sweet between the teeth.

My huntsman hungered.
So did his knife.
Do you eat the red cheeks,
I said to him that day,
and I will eat the core.

I cored her. Oh
her looks might’ve hooked
the hearts of mirrors, of suitors
in dozened dimes, but my huntsman
hooked her looks, carved sweet slices,
blooded the snow of her face, and I
gave her the gift of a fabled room
whose walls were mirrors.
The tale is wrong. Their way
is kinder, I confess.

But mine is fair.

© Amal El-Mohtar

From Apex Books

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