Two Views from the Shore

by Nicole Kornher-Stace

That white stone chain-smokes girls, and one by one
Like peaches plucked still unripe from the tree
They bruise and soften as they sit alone,
The Lady and the ghosts for company.
As shrewd as Valkyries, they choose their slain;
As crafty as their Lady, with whose hands
Petitioners are linked in daisy-chains
Of heroes and of ghosts, until the strands
Of each brief life-braid ravels out: each rite
To set the year's wheel turning trundles past;
Each spring their words slay men until time lights
A new girl on the embers of the last.
Through each one's mouth the goddess tells the fates
Of men; for theirs, the women only wait.

That black lake chain-smokes men; ghosts stalk its shores
Each with its torcs of hemp, of gold, of blood:
To chase the wolf of winter from the doors
Each bartered breath and bone for thaw and bud.
Still they recall the noose, the club, the blade,
The deaths that in the Lady's lap they died –
The little death, the triple one: a braid
Of deaths. Each corpse, sung down, is sunk beside
The Lady's last consort, off journeying:
Each gone down like the sun, the sun to find
Until it slips his grasp; the newborn spring
May swell and bloom, but winter's near behind.
The girl will watch their deaths with hungry eyes:
The lake spits her back out each time she tries.

Nicole Kornher-Stace was born in Philadelphia in 1983, moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again by the time she was five, and currently lives in New Paltz, NY, with one husband, two ferrets, one Changeling, and many many books. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several magazines and anthologies, including Best American Fantasy, Clockwork Phoenix 3, Fantasy Magazine, Ideomancer, GUD, Goblin Fruit, Lone Star Stories, and Farrago's Wainscot. Her poems have been nominated for the Rhysling Award and her short fiction has been longlisted for the British Fantasy Awards and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of one novel, Desideria, and her featured poems from the Summer 2009 issue of Goblin Fruit are collected in the lusciously-illustrated chapbook Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties. For further miscellany, check out her blog.

The word "cherry" does not make her think of a poem straightaway, as her brain's decided to think of a painting first instead — The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch. She however has it on good authority that she simply must write a poem about it and that problem will be solved.

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