“All the Glory of Her Earthly Shell” by Holly Lyn Walrath

I’m not supposed to say this
but her body was only ever a trophy
excavated bit by bit from memory
her tail tightening around my ankles
monitoring my heartbeat, my breathing
locking me in place, not too tight
my hands severed from my control
I trace her finely polished scales
prick my palms against her fangs
and even as I light this fuse I know
I’m the one blown apart.

When she leaves me, I curl up in her shed corpse
busted up from the inside out. What remains
of her is waxy, callow, fresh, soft-bodied
thinner than peony petals. I pull her exoskeleton
over me and look out of her eye caps.
Seen with her eyes the world is bottle-green
and I let her harden to obsidian around me.
Soon all her remains will be dust and
she will taste like nothing, nothing.
But this isn’t the story you want, snake girls
aren’t meant to be worshiped. Forgive me,
I have only this memorial of what she was
to me and I haven’t learned the right words
to describe our love.

Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, Liminality, and elsewhere. She is the author of Glimmerglass Girl (Finishing Line Press, 2018). She works as a freelance editor in Houston, Texas. Find her on Twitter @hollylynwalrath, or at www.hlwalrath.com.
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