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When I was young, no face.
She spoke to me from a shroud,
A cloud of darkness, cloaked and close
And I knew She was Death, and thought
She was old, old, old.
Once She came wearing a face
Like a costume, for a masquerade,
Black gown glittering with stars, fair face
With midnight hair – I recognized
A queen from my book of faery tales,
And even then knew She was hiding
Herself from me. The occasion?
We went to Faery, She and I.
I was admonished not to let go her hand
As she showed me off to silver folk
Who looked upon us both with thinly veiled
Disgust. I was a child, I knew nothing,
Save that I was privy to things far beyond
Comprehension. So I did not look at Her.
When I died, many years later, She came to me
And I saw Her, divided like Ardhanarisvara
But living and dead, not male and female –
No, that instead was me. Skin wearing off
Across the bridge of the nose, down to skull
And skeletal hand that left its mark
Upon my memory. I know you now,
I cried upon awakening. I am done with playing
Rumpelstiltskin. You are Mother Rot,
Lady Death, goddess of my ancestors,
And I have died at your hands.
Once She came to me wearing a face
Like a costume, for yet another purpose,
A slim white girl, snow-pale of hair and skin
Dressed in white furs open to pale breasts.
Her face was delicate, yet I could smell the rot.
I ran, then, rejected the one thing
That needed my consent, my open arms,
Because I feared, because I hated,
Because I could.
I walked the long road to Her kingdom,
Nine days worth. World after world
And ending by Her fire, serenading
The yearning Dead. She came, tall and glorious,
Tattered black shroud whipping in the wind,
Her knuckles shone and clacked like carved rings.
I knelt and gave Her dried roses, blood red.
As She took them, Her gown turned that color
Suffused with life, as if I had given Her my blood.
She is the daughter of shapeshifters,
She is the many faces of Ending,
She is the many forms of Doom.
She is beautiful as a poised serpent,
The iridescent black feather of a vulture,
The quiet slope of a marble gravestone,
The plume of scarlet on the razor’s flash,
The rippling watermark of old burn scars,
The sleek curve of a thorn,
The jeweled flash of a carrion beetle,
A clean white skull in the sand.
This poem is
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