Every year the water flows up to the banks and beyond,

reaching slick algae fingers to the sky:

betrayal of an old one-eyed widow, her son never looked after

nor given a samurai’s sword. And now you have her tears

greening your lands, not salty, but fetid and harsh

stink rising in the bright wet spring winds

through the windows of the keep. The woman inside the pillar

is the bones inside the promise. The woman inside the pillar

has grown roots deep into this new earthquake. It shakes

the woman whose face was pressed against the stone.

The woman whose round body has rotted to earth

in a smile no one can see.

Her bones glow inside that cylinder that can’t hold her.

Her bones call for the whole thing to crash down.


Betsy Aoki

Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki is a poet, short story writer and game producer. Her work has appeared / is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, Asimov’s Magazine of Science Fiction, and anthologized in Climbing Lightly Through Forests (Ursula K. Le Guin tribute poetry anthology). In 2021 she won the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize Honoring Jake Adam York, as selected by Jericho Brown.
Her first poetry collection, Breakpoint, is a 2019 National Poetry Series Finalist and received the Patricia Bibby First Book Award. Breakpoint is forthcoming from Tebot Bach in 2022. You can find her tweeting at @baoki or contact her via her website at

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