by Samantha Henderson

Dad came home late, and slow
pale beneath the soot of downtown sodium
and wiped his forehead, and leaned on the back
of the chair that's had two, three, new-turned back legs
in its forty-year life, and he told us. "The lights.
They're cutting half the lights, to save the money and the means.
One week before this sector goes dark."
             Mom's stare burned through him.
             Her cheekbones carved like weapons,
             beneath the thinning skin —
             and all she could say was: "They can't mean it."
There's shelter in city center,
clean pink brick, and ten square meters
for each of us and the smell
of the upstairs neighbor's pot roast.
             I don't need to be told —
             my grandfather built this house
             back when the country clamored for metal
             at any price, building itself, hand over hand.
             The rear shed first, to live in
             while they laid the foundation,
             witchlights embedded in the matrix
             to keep the fae from crawling beneath.
They don't love us: why would they?
We don't pretend they weren't here first.
That we didn't drive them back, with fire and light
to pull steel from the ground.
Sometimes they spare a life,
But always take their price. 
The Grovers' boy, four years old and yellow-haired
With those gold-brown eyes that happen sometimes.
The mother fevered, in bed, and he wandered
into a seeming-gentle night.
Three days gone, they thought him dead,
like Maggie Hollister,
and the man who repaired the five-point wires,
and our wandering collie, who we found
over a week, in pieces. But the boy came back,
ungutted, a little hungry, even cheerful.
His eyes — flat pale disks
like silver coins in his face. Not his sight.
He could see as well. Better. More than he ought.
They only took the color.
             I caught Kimmie, sneaking in late,
             past the time the streetlights snooze, dimming
             so we can have our safe night. I found
             her bed empty, and crawled inside
             like when we were kids. Her sheets
             smelled like fabric softener, and the musk
             of old leaves. She came at last, with cold legs,
             and ash in her hair.  I asked her why,
             how, why, how could you go outside
             outside the pale circles we forge
             in the night, as man sets fences against the forest,
             and steel against the sea's deep?
(The fae spared little Jake Grover
but his own kind would not. A month, or two,
of asking what did you throw in the East River
and what's the game you play with Mariah
and that flat stare, like old-style nickels —
they found him in a center-city dumpster)
            How long have you dared, how long
            Before they pull you apart, before they take away
            your reason, before you're stripped
            of every sense, before we find you
            on the border, drained-white and waxy
            pushed out from dark into light
            like a splinter from the flesh?
She sighs, and gathers me spooning
into her body, smelling sharp
like wet grass, and tells me:
"I do it for the love."
Dawntime, I walk the crisp streets.
These houses to be given over to the night,
lawns razor-sharp as shirt collars, or overgrown
with ribbons snakes and God-knows-what
roaming in the tall grass. Porches hung
with a neat-painted swing chair, or a dream catcher
or a string of wishbones, dry and charmed
against night's dominion. I walk
to where the streetlights end, the houses end
where chainlink marks the border, and the brambles begin
thick with the berries Kimmie and I gathered once
(and were soundly spanked for it), and the mazy elms,
and the willows beside the distant river.
I lean against the twisted wire, branding my forehead,
Listening for the voices we heard, berry-picking.
I know we'll lose Kimmie;
I know I'll never smell bacon
again in cold morning air.

Samantha Henderson's poetry has been published in Goblin Fruit, Stone Telling, Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, New Myths, and Mythic Delirium. Her poetry chapbook, The House of Forever, was published in 2012 by Raven Electrick Ink. She is the editor of the poetry 'zine inkscrawl.

When asked who would win in a poetry cage-match between Shakespeare and Sappho, Sam replied as follows: "Sappho had purportedly given birth and had to hold her own against brothers, with indicates she was kickass and gives her the advantage. But Shakespeare made up words like 'incarnadine,' which gives him power over reality. I imagine that it was pretty even until the third round, when Sappho got the drop on Will with a Petrarchan sonnet and had him in a headlock, that he started to recite hitherto unknown words for the shade of purple on the undersides of clouds that are about to erupt, and the feeling of salty sand drying one's skin after a dip in a rough sea, and the squeak of cheese curds, and the cage split open and they both ascended towards heaven, rotating gently around each other."

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