Gingerbread House Lit Mag

The Crane Wife, And Other Stories


Autumn burns low, and I come home to find
her lungs have once more filled with feathers.
So I pump them out, make sure she eats,
get ticking from the closet, needle, thread,

whipstitch another pillow for the nest.
At least for now she’s comfortable,
though it’s cruel her wings would say their names so wrong,
cruel she cannot breathe but by my hand.

We sleep tight against each other, limbs twisted like wire,
and someday, I tell her, we’ll crawl into a black egg
and drift between the stars in endless sleep.


Crack an egg into deep water, and it blooms:
white tulle, and the pretty face of a girl
an omen:
hair bound with flowers for running water,
hair          loose           for still.
Red hair clung to a sinking board,
black           for slipping under.
Brown eyes driven by the torches of hunters,
green for a hand pressed to jailhouse glass,
while the water mounts behind her.

A better witch would read time and season too,
but I make do with stars and guesswork,
night patrols, cold vigils by the lake.

Three things are worthy of praise,
Four are deserving of honor:
the snare for its persistence,
the fever’s rose-fingered touch,
the beneficence of the fish on the line
and me for this virtue: that having once caught
a skinny wrist from the gray wave upthrust,
I do not let go―while the cold strips feeling,
while the water seeps in, while the pulse wanes,
while the dark bears down, even unto death―

or so, at least, I have foreseen.
Meanwhile the vigil, and she that dwells
comes up to just beneath my mirrored face
and so masked, lifts her unlovely voice:


Come, ye children, sorrow’s worn you
Find your way to waterside
Pearls and shells will here adorn you
Barren trees bend low to mourn you
Come to me, with me abide

Dark your eyes and deep the water
―Deep breath, and hold it fast
You will never be a martyr
Nor the Genovese daughter
Slip unseen into the past

Welcome, lady, to my garden
Let the current spread your hair
Plant your feet and hear my bargain:
For the work to keep you, pardon
Purchased with your mouth of air

I will prune you, softly singing,
Take my wage in gentle sips
Snails and lampreys to you clinging
Flesh and benthic soil mingling
While there’s breath behind your lips

When it’s gone, I’ll not forsake you,
Though your tongue is rotted text,
Though there’s nothing now can wake you,
Take you in my arms and make you
Fertilizer for the next.

Calypso Jane Selwyn

Calypso Jane Selwyn is a transgender lesbian poet & horror writer from Fayetteville, AR, and a facilitator and reader with the forthcoming TWANG Anthology, which aims to showcase trans and gender-nonconforming voices in the American South and Midwest. She has spent these long months of isolation listening to horror podcasts and awaiting season 5 of the Expanse. Her Halloween playlist is better than yours.

Artwork: Alexandra Khitrova, Spring

This entry was published on October 31, 2020 at 12:06 am and is filed under 44 (October 2020), Poetry. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
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