In the story I tell you there are two girls,
sisters. One is the beautiful, the other
sweeps the brown cinders over
the hot bricks. It is she, the plainer,
who meets the woman in the woods,
who is blessed with rose hips and juniper
under her step, with smooth stones fallen
like words, rounded by breath. This is how
she learns to sing. Her sister spoke
and her tongue forked into snakes,
leading away. I am the woman in the woods.
Two nights after the night I learned
to separate sex from pain, the old threads
re-stitched themselves. He cupped
his hands. I looked inside and saw
the blue of our little world, the drop-
stitch of stars, the black jag where
the needle had missed. We slept. I tried
to slip my hand inside, but his fingers
were laced. My careful hem crept
down, covering knees. On my tongue,
an amethyst, swallowed. I don’t know
how to tell you what she grew into.
She was plain, after all. The tacks were rough.
The red petals bruised under her feet,
and made the kitchen floorboards slick
with blood. Her sister’s snakes scared
the village away. Eventually, the men
stopped coming to the door with their axes
tipped behind their heads. The sky
grew large past the half moon of their blades.
From the box in the attic, she took
the old dress. She would let the dress out.
She would fill it with her body.