Steal Me

by C.S.E. Cooney

for Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

my friend Fox Woman
tucks up her tail, puts on eyeliner
goes Blues dancing at a local dive
she's a natural redhead, a natural dancer
and sometimes her tail comes uncurled
to feel up the ass of the follow behind her
as she's licking the neck of her lead
if you take Fox Woman for your bride
you should know the lipstick on your collar
has a price, know she'll leave bruise marks
with her sharp, sharp teeth
know you've married a thief
and if you don't love her for her lies
she will leave, slink off into the mesquite
yellow-eyed kits in a row
my friend Dove Girl
wanted it all: white wedding
honeymoon on an island
drinks with umbrellas, cooing over diamonds
scuba-diving with dolphins, doughnuts
for breakfast, a lace negligee
all very tasteful
she is plump-breasted, preening
very reassuring, and she loves me, and she
wants me to be happy, telling me
"when he's the right one
honey, you'll know. You'll give
yourself to him, feathers and all –
you won't need wings where you're going."
Crane Wife and Swan Wife
disagree with Dove Girl
then again – they had their feather coats stolen
spun into silk, into sickness, despair
until they filched themselves back for themselves
sewed their souls together and ran off
to be married in Manhattan
just as soon as it was legal
they too have advice, most of it conflicting:
"never trust a man with nice handwriting," says Crane
"it's better with a woman," says Swan
"except if she's an emotional refrigerator"
and they gaze at each other, soft-eyed
me, I'm not looking to be married
not to man, not to woman
I don't want a werewolf or a banker or a Bedouin
I'm just looking at you, the way you walk past me
every damned day, how you smile
say my name, say, "Ahoy!"
like those sailors I knew back in my sea days
(drowned now)
and all I want to do, you know, all I desire
is to leave my sealskin somewhere you'll
step on it, where you'll stoop down and stroke it
as I die slowly from a distance, as that link forms
warm, familiar
like fingers around my ankle
"what's this?" you'll say, and you'll pick up my skin
and you'll open your shirt
and you'll fold it away...
and then you'll have to keep me.

C.S.E. Cooney lives and writes across the street from a Victorian Strolling Park. She is the author of How To Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes and Jack o’ the Hills, both available on Amazon. Her most recent novellas, Martyr's Gem and How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One may be found online at GigaNotoSaurus. "Witch, Beast, Saint" the first of her erotic fairytales from The Witch's Garden Series will be appearing in Strange Horizons in late July 2014. With her fellow artists in the Banjo Apocalypse Crinoline Troubadours, Cooney appears at conventions and other venues, dramatizing excerpts from her fiction, singing songs, and performing such story-poems as "The Sea King's Second Bride," for which she won the Rhysling Award in 2011.

When asked what one poem she would choose to make tangible and in what way, she replied as follows: "Some poems are already so nearly tangible, so sensual, they would require very little to manifest as actual objects. Yehuda Amichai's 'A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention' is only a propeller and a pair of wings away from flight."

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