by Rose Lemberg

You say this stitchery is women's work, not for warriors,
even if they are women. You say,
whoever heard of land-stitchery? But if it is important,
then it's warrior work. With no strength in your limbs
to swing a sword, how can you do whatever it is you do? It has to be
unimportant, busywork
with too much ornament,
a waste of everyone's time.

Listen, each dawn and sunset,
each day and darkness I don't see you. I only notice
your words because my friends repeat them.
Listen, what you say has no significance.

They slash, I piece together
that which has been slashed and that which has not been.
The seen and unseen meld in my hands,
I make lands from scraps,
I make these lands flow into each other,
embrace like sisters within the strictures of my thread.

When my arms are too painful for daywork, I ask
if it pleases the clouds to make rainshirts,
if it pleases the meadows to sprout flowercoats and bedding,
if it pleases the rocks to piece me a belt.
Rarely do I ask. I am patient
in my coat of fallen leaves from yesteryear,
in my shoes of nothing much.

That pattern in which every leaf is adorned,
the fine stitchery of sap,
the entwinement of rivers
all that you've called redundant
is the blood which flows, well-ornamented,
through your veins in threads I chose.
The land, too,
doesn't notice your opinions
as it washes your meat into mud,
makes a cat's cradle from your bones.

But I will always be here
under the sky's benevolent wail,
sifting stones with the patience of water,
as significant as the space between breaths.

Rose Lemberg is an immigrant from three countries. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex, Goblin Fruit, Interfictions, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, and other venues. Rose co-edits Stone Telling with Shweta Narayan. She has also edited The Moment of Change, an anthology of feminist speculative poetry (Aqueduct Press, 2012). She can be found online at her website, and on Twitter as @roselemberg.

When asked what story-speaking instrument a miller's daughter might watch her become, Rose replied as follows: "For many years I've thought that it would be a violin, but — there's no gentle way to confess this — it is really a cello."

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