by Helen Marshall

"Beauty," father told us, "attracts the divine eye."
He crafted for my sisters each
a mask of panned mud and witch grass.
Made them wear it out of doors
until their faces took on the folds and crevices,
strange distortions,
the ugliness of his hands.
Back then we kept our eyes low.
All that blue sky was a hunting ground.
Sarah bent her back like an old dowager.
Maria walked with a limp.
"He will come for you," father warned us,
"in the shape of a great white bull,
a dark-eyed swan,
or a shaft of light in the murdering hour.
Do not be fooled.
I lost your mother that way."
Liza has learned to spit.
Cresseida tore a hole in her eye so it wept blood.
In the evenings we sit beside the fire
under a roof of thatch,
timber stripped to heartwood.
Diana takes scissors to her curls,
and I watch them drift golden in the smoke:
hair burns so quickly,
curls up like a mouse from a hawk.
"Go to sleep," my sisters whisper to me.
"Hush now and good night, little one."
They stroke my cheek,
leave sooty fingerprints, like blessings,
for the morning.
Tomorrow they will take me into the light.
They will wear masks,
set their feet deliberately crooked
on the path from the cottage.
I alone —
unbroken in their arms,
hidden in the shadows they make for me —
will recall the slant
of their shining.

Helen Marshall is a Canadian author, editor, and medievalist. Her poetry and short fiction have won the Aurora Award from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, the Elgin Chapbook Award from the Science Fiction Poetry Association and the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer. Her latest collection of fiction, Gifts for the One Who Comes After, was released in September, 2014.

She says "my favourite fruit is the pomegranate, ever since I learned there was a secret method for getting all the seeds out without the rind."

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