Temperance and The Devil, Reversed

It begins with running,
always the same
bone-white panic—
running from something bigger
than yourself, this story
told and retold, until it shapeshifts
into something Other,
and it chases you like a wolf.

Unkindness arrives
in a whirl of black songs,
a triumph made of feathers
unfurling like frost
across glass, delicate
and beautiful, disarming,
until it is too late—
and these words are like arsenic
and whiskey, the antidote
for a love spell gone wild,
a reminder that the truth
is often more heretic
than hope.

So that’s it then—
the illusion breaks,
the sword’s thrown back
into the lake,
there are no heroes here,
no legend,
the mirror’s cracked
from side to side,
and now you see
your true self.

You keep running,
a wake of bruises
and ruin behind you,
soul like a tower, always
falling, and chaos is where you
put your sorrow, making an altar
of it, bone by bone,
until it’s who you are,
and who you’ve been,
and who you’ll be.

I’m sorry.
It didn’t have to be like this.
You could’ve stayed—
just once.


Ali Trotta

Ali Trotta is a poet, editor, dreamer, word-nerd, and unapologetic coffee addict. Her poetry has appeared in Uncanny, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nightmare, Fireside, Strange Horizons, Mermaids Monthly, and Cicada magazines, as well as in The Best of Uncanny from Subterranean Press. She has a poem forthcoming in Asimov’s. Her short fiction has appeared in Curtains, a flash fiction anthology. A geek to the core, she’s previously written TV show reviews for Blastoff Comics, as well as a few personal essays. Ali’s always scribbling on napkins, looking for magic in the world, and bursting into song. When she isn’t word-wrangling, she’s being a kitchen witch, hugging an animal, or pretending to be a mermaid. Follow her on Twitter as @alwayscoffee or subscribe to her TinyLetter. Four of her poems, including three for Uncanny, were Rhysling Award nominees.

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