The old woman who hands you an apple
I always eat what I eat, alone. So
true, that what spills from our lips
has a life of its own. Flowers, jewels,
toads, and bones: I speak in streamers
to cast my spells.
You, you swallow what you cannot keep:
gingerbread children, a red riding cape,
a river stone heated to make stone soup.
You give it all back to me at the crossroads.
I stitch what I know, and it unravels in your hair:
a ribbon, a kerchief, a scarf for the mourning.
Come bite of my apple and then, truly know.
My hand sheds snakes and shakes
and I will not scream. Girl, I carry all your stories
like wolves carry the disease.
© 2017 by Betsy Aoki
Betsy Aoki is a poet, short story writer and game producer. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, Asimov’s Magazine of Science Fiction, 580 Split, The Margins (Asian American Writers’ Workshop), and anthologized in Climbing Lightly Through Forests (a Ursula K. Le Guin tribute poetry anthology). In 2021 she won the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize Honoring Jake Adam York, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown.
Her debut poetry collection, Breakpoint, is a 2019 National Poetry Series Finalist, and was published in 2022 after winning the Patricia Bibby First Book Award. You can find out more at betsyaoki.com/breakpoint.