A Riddler at Market

For Delia and Ellen

You’ll know me by my walk between the market stalls,
by my shambling gait and by my fur–gown of rust
embroidered with nettle and seedpods of dandelion,
buttoned in sweet clover from the riverbanks.

I am a riddler in a pinecone crown,
I speak honey, but don’t let the bees buzz my name,
for the secrets of spring have swelled and overflown,
and the secrets of summer have made my fur–gown gleam.

And now I’m in need of your cinnamon and clove,
in need of your baked pumpkin and barley malt syrup;
I am in need of your sweet cream and green tea,
I am in need of your burned groats of buckwheat.

Oh, I will bake for you with my own good brown hands
an effigy of autumn under an egg–yolk sun,
my likeness a gift of all that has been golden:
so adorn me with ribbons and raspberry beads,
repay me with pears that run with buckwheat honey.

Later, much later, when the rivers slow down,
and the rainbow has frozen in a lattice of sweetwater,
remember me kindly in my fur–gown of rust,
asleep in my shoes of well–worn brown leather.

I’ll dream for us a caterpillar joy,
a dance of skylarks and a river that leaps silver,
and a summer that comes in her linden leaf dress
in her bracelets of grass and a belt of wild honey.


R.B. Lemberg

R.B. Lemberg is a queer, bigender immigrant from Ukraine, Russia, and Israel to the US. Their stories and poems have appeared in Lightspeed‘s Queers Destroy Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny Magazine, Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology, and more. R.B.’s work has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, and other awards. R.B’s new Birdverse novella The Four Profound Weaves is forthcoming from Tachyon Press in 2020. “Eating disorder…” is a part of their larger project in progress, Everything Thaws. You can find R.B. on Twitter at @rb_lemberg, on Patreon at, and at

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