She, she was born thus, a she. Around her were cousins, he-cousins. Whenever a gathering, he-cousins crowded, shoving her aside, not a thought to them as they did. Time after time. Came a time, an expanse of time, one he-cousin sat, back-seat beside her, he-uncle, she-aunt in front, journey to a castle mountain in a far country. All day-trip long, words of the he-cousin, scratched at her skin, poked at her eyes, clever cleaver-he, he was. She, unschooled in words, could find only bird’s nests in her throat. Silent she sat. At the castle-mountain, divergence tightened. He-uncle, she-aunt, he-cousin, wanted eye-knowledge. Her throat craved drink, her stomach cried for the castle-famous egg-omelets. Ridicule did not dissuade. She-aunt’s face scrunched up; anger words flew. But, omelets, at last, yes!

Small tokens, cost a lot. He-cousin, he-uncle, she-aunt, pinched their lips, went silent. Hours on long home trip, in flight, he-cousin sat silent beside her. His anger, her shame, scattered to whole family.

She walked many feel-better walks, One day, on a path in a field near woods-still-wild, she saw a coyote jazz trotting along. This coyote, head turned to look at her, shrug-looked, stopped. Waiting. She heard him, as if in her own head. I give you , breath of my breath, revenge to that he-cousin, so mean. Inhale and it is yours. What could she do, not inhale? Most curious, she thought.

A year passed. On a day, he-cousin grew sick. Sick and sicker, long-time sad, and died. She-aunt, as was her wont, pointed anger in twirls, everywhere, stuck to her, stuck to many. Puzzling. That coyote, she remembered. Not so satisfying.




  1. Dominique Christina


    On three separate, carefully curated occasions I cursed my stepfather. I was little and not in full possession of my magic but I was somebody the ancestors seemed to listen to and check for. I was somebody the ghosts knew to defer to. I was somebody the earth remembered. I knew that. I felt that. Even as a little girl in a house dominated by a monster I knew that. And so it was in that knowledge that I, on three separate, carefully curated occasions, cursed my stepfather and called for his son, my step-brother to grow up both motherless and fatherless. It happened exactly like that. I was certain…am certain I am responsible for my step-father’s death. I am telling you this because you’re story brought it up for me. It is the first time I have ever really named this. So thank you for the confession your story evoked. Thank you for choosing to tell it. I was never satisfied with my stepfather’s death. It was “not so satisfying” as you stated to end your story. But he was dead…is dead. And my life was less impermanent after that. Still fragile, still carrying much…but unkillable.

  2. Rhyannon Brightwater

    Martha, I love the language of this piece and I understand the hurt and the sense of guilt when those who tormented us are removed from our life. I was always afraid of the power I knew I had in me when I was young…always afraid of stepping on a crack and breaking my mother’s back when I was angry with her. I would close my mouth tight against the words “I wish you would die” when I felt emotionally abused by my father. so honest.

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