The Right of It

by Seanan McGuire

My mother had the right of it:
Blood, feathers, snow.
These are what I'd choose to represent me,
To bear my banner, to spread my story.
Let me run in your veins, my winter girls;
Let me fill your hearts with courage,
So you can turn away from those who hurt you.
Let me numb your tears, my frozen girls;
Let me give you strength to walk on feet
That have been bruised by shoes too small.
Let me give you wings, my raven girls;
Let me teach you how to fly away, even when
The endless wood is all that waits to greet you.

Blood, feathers, snow.
Is that so hard to fathom?

My colors were too powerful, and so
Men took wore them down, replaced them,
Made them harmless, fit for children's eyes,
No longer meant for turning the hearts
Of daughters
Who might rise above their station.

For blood they give me apples, as if
I should revere my murder weapon, cleave to it,
Hold it high as a token of my weakness.
How dare I hunger, how dare I open the door!
Silly child, to trust a stranger.
For snow they give me frosted glass, as if
I should dream only of my coffin, aspire only
To return to a time when I needed no dreams,
No thoughts, no actions, only to wait
For a Prince to come and claim me.
And for my feathers, ah, for my black and perfect birds,
They give me hair like coal, and they would change it
If they could, because where does the darkness fit
Inside such a pretty princess story?
Give her hair like gold, or copper, or anything
To let us forget that we locked her in a cage of glass,
Took her freedom, killed her, and called her beautiful.

My mother had the right of it:
Blood, feathers, snow.

When they hand you your own murder weapon,
Put it down.
Do not be defined by apples,
Whatever apples mean to you;
Forget the apples, the coffins,
The attempts to tame your beauty;
You are not required to be beautiful,
Or to be tame, or to be anything
But a creature of the wood,
Bleeding, freezing, flying,
Until you are free.
Until we are free.

Seanan McGuire lives in Northern California, in a crumbling old farmhouse filled with books, cats, and spiders. The spiders are uninvited, but tend to show up anyway. She writes books when she's home and short stories when she's not, and she travels as much as she can. She sometimes writes Shakespearean tragedies for fun, which really explains a lot. Like many, she is happiest in the liminal seasons, and is excited to see the winter bend toward spring. Follow her at her website, or on Twitter (which comes with bonus cat pictures).

When asked of what poem the word "cherry" immediately made her think, Seanan replied as follows: "I am a bit predictable, I'm afraid; the word 'cherry' immediately makes me think of 'Goblin Market,' and all those pomegranates, full and fine."

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