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.


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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