by Theodora Goss

Some men are actually ravens.

Oh, they look like men.
Some of them in suits,
some of them in shirts embroidered
with the names of baseball teams,
some in uniforms, fighting in wars we only see
on television.
But underneath, they are ravens.
Look carefully, and you will find their skins of feathers.

Once, I fell in love with a raven man.
I knew that to keep him I had to take his skin,
his skin of feathers, long and black as night,
like ebony, tarmac, licorice, black holes.
I found it (he had taken it off to play baseball)
and hid it in the attic.

He was mine for seven years.

I had to make promises:
not to hurt ravens, to give our children names
like Sky, and Rain Cloud, and Nest-of-Twigs,
spend one night a week in the bole of an old oak tree
that had been hollowed out by who-knows-what.
I had to eat worms. (Yes, I ate worms.)
You do crazy things for raven men.

In return,
he spent six nights a week in my arms.
His black feathers fell around me.
He gave me three children
(Sky, Rain Cloud, Nest-of-Twigs,
whom we called Twiggy).
And I was happy,
which is more than most people achieve.

You know where this is going.
One day, I threw a stone at a raven.
I was not angry, he was not doing anything in particular.
It is just
that raven men are always lost.
Think of it as destiny,
Think of it as inevitable.

I was not tired of our nights together,
with the moon gleaming on his feathers.
Or maybe he found his skin in the attic?
Maybe I had taken his skin and he found it,
and he picked three feathers from it
and touched each of our children,
and they flew away together?
Maybe that's how I lost them?

I don't even remember.
Loving raven men will make you crazy.
In the mornings I see them hurrying to their offices,
the men in suits. And I see them in bars
shouting for their basketball teams, and I see them
on television in wars that have no names,
and I say, that one is a raven man,
and that one, and that one.

Sometimes I stop one and say,
will you send my raven man back to me?
And my raven children?
Some night, when the moon is gleaming,
the way it used to gleam
on long black feathers falling
around my face?

Theodora Goss was born in Hungary and spent her childhood in various European countries before her family moved to the United States. Although she grew up on the classics of English literature, her writing has been influenced by an Eastern European literary tradition in which the boundaries between realism and the fantastic are often ambiguous. Her publications include the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting (2006); Interfictions (2007), a short story anthology coedited with Delia Sherman; and Voices from Fairyland (2008), a poetry anthology with critical essays and a selection of her own poems. Her short stories and poems have won the World Fantasy and Rhysling Awards. Visit her website, and know that her favourite fruit is the cherry.

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