Some of you say, “It is the north wind who has woven the clothes to wear.”
But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.
And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
My sisters rely on ponds to survive. Deep in the Midland Black the bogs cycle clear water through webs of sphagnum, a system stretching from the forest to the stone steps on the flat. The ground is level in most places, a defunct womb, a fox trap overgrown with moss. The moon hangs in the sky ringed with disease, and we are too alone.
My sisters scrape black crawfish from the net edges and cook them in pots over fire while we think about the unevenness. We think of ourselves as equals—feel our sameness through the currents in our blood—but still our eldest was around for a time the rest of us didn’t exist, when we were unreal or less, locked in the precepts of nebula. Our eldest won’t talk these days and we don’t know what she’s seen of loneliness. Our questions are clumsy, the grace of crawfish claws in their last moments of boiling.
I light all the fires under our pots. It is my natal dexterity, my blood-moon birthright. Others have the nets, the moss, priestess-knowledge, reservoirs deep as peat; I raise flames to curl with the helix of hazel branches.
If we had names we might forget ourselves. We don’t need them in the flatness, where we can see from the forest straight through to the Edge. We read the difference in our faces like the runes in the stones; the meaning we’ve forgotten because our eldest doesn’t speak. We get glimmers of understanding, deep truths from our ionized psyche, the unconscious we formed from, plasmatic astronomy traced into our bones. The things we know are smoke-thick, then gone; we are acclimated to enough.
What we know about our lineage are irises covering the range of feldspar, dark hair from the depths of the mires. It would be imbalanced to have a favorite sister, but these days I spend most of my time with the bone-carver. Of all my sisters she maybe looks the most like me: hooded eyes, rune-slice cheeks. The bone carver makes our tools from the fallow deer midden after a fresh kill; she is particularly adept at knives. The bone-carver is the one who kills most of the fallows we rely on in the Midland Black these days, for hoods, for oils, for meat, for bones. There are many things we can say to each other without speaking, only through our iridium looks, language audible to fallows and storms.
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