In Search of a North Countrie1 min read


Amal El-Mohtar
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for Caitlyn Paxson and Jessica P. Wick

North of the Trent, they say,
we give our eyes to ravens.
Where they fly, so do our looks,
and their hunger is our hunger,
and we feast on slain knights,
their would-be brides
with their bellies full of children.

Is this a knife I see before me?

North of the Trent, they say,
we are a hard and hardened lot;
we cut stone with our teeth.
Our women thread needles
with nettles, sew us shirts,
and we never feel the itch.

Is this a knife I see before me?

North of the Trent, they say,
we break bodies into instruments,
bend breastbones into harps – and know
that harps are never strung with hair,
but scraped and scoured gut.

Is this a knife I see before me?

Who can say? Who, but you,
blithe river-forder, seeking adventure,
seeking giants to cut down like ripe bean stalks,
with your weak and whimpering wit?
Stories drew you—a desire
to draw yourself in story. Well.
North of the Trent, I say,
we are known for hospitality. Let us see
if we may not yet find you a place
among the beaks of our ravens,
the roots of our nettles,
the frames of our sturdy harps.


  • Amal El-Mohtar

    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

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