“The Murk-Journal (or Once Beyond a Time)” by Danica Cummins

                                                                      A  witch
                                                                      cursed
                                                                      me  long
                                                                      ago,
                                                                      and  now
                                                            I  am  the
                                                            stones
                                                                      in  a
                                                            riverbed.

                                                            This
                                                  freshwater
                                                  kelp  is  my
                                                  hair.
                                                  These
                                        obsidian
                                        pebbles  are
                                        my  eyes.
                                        This
                              frisking
                              otter  --  
                                        she’s  my
                              heart,
                              and
                    these  hiding
                    minnows
                              are  my
                    mind.

                                        Do  you
                              think  I  would
                              forget  I
                                        was
                              female  --    
                                        the  way
                              my  legs  cleft
                                        in  the
                              middle?
                                                  This
                                        eddy  of  water
                                        here  by  the
                                                  rock  --    
                                                  that’s
                                        my
                                        enjambment,
                                                  my  womb.

                                                                      I  was
                                                            threatened
                                                            once.
                                                                      A  witch
                                                            cursed  me
                                                                      to  live
                                                            a  long  and
                                                                      happy
                                                                                life,
                                                                      exactly  as  
                                                                      I’d
                                                                                wanted.
                                                                                          Then
                                                                                the
                                                                                unicorns
                                                                                started
                                                                                          denying  me.
                                                                                                    They
                                                                                          nickered  away
                                                                                                    from  my
                                                                                                    scent.
                                                                                                              I  
                                                                                                    smelled
                                                                                                              finished:
                                                                                                              of  the
                                                                                                    ragged
                                                                                                    moonflower
                                                                                                              heath,
                                                                                                              and  the
                                                                                                    tower  steps,
                                                                                                              and  the
                                                                                                    pearly  blood
                                                                                                              clots  in
                                                                                                    winter
                                                                                          no  more.
                                                                                                    Now
                                                                                          I  must  be  
                                                                                          a  tender  of
                                                                                beanstalks,
                                                                                          the
                                                                                witch  said,
                                                                                not  a
                                                                                climber;
                                                                      and  the  
                                                                                door
                                                                      in  the
                                                                                valley,
                                                                      creaking
                                                            there  free
                                                                      of  going
                                                            anywhere

                                                  wouldn’t
                                        open.

                              And  I
                    thought:
                    Maybe  I’d  
          rather  be  
          the  
          stones.
I  backed  
          into  these  
waters,  far  
          from  
words,  and  
scents,  
                    and  
          doors;  far  
          inside  
                    a  
                    different  
                    sort  
                              of
                    power.  And  
                              I’ll  wait  
                              here.
                              
                                        Until  
                                        the  moths  eat  
                                                  the  tapestries,  
                                                            I’ll
                                                            wait  here.    
                                                                      Until  no  
                                                            man  remembers  
                                                                      the  
                                                            planet  where  
                                                            pipers  
                                                                      can  
                                                                      lead.  Until  
                                                                      sailors  
                                                            retreat  from  
                                                                      the  salt  
                                                            breath  of  
                                                                      mermaids,  
                                                            thalassic  
                                                  romance  
                                        adjourned.						

Danica Cummins lives in Northern California, where she works in a bookstore and dreams of being a pirate. Her work has been published in Luna Station Quarterly and many other online venues.
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