Ashin of the North

Phantom fingers sweep the floor of the forest

where trees stand sparse as splinters splitting sky,

ample distance for fists of mist to grip

their lonesome torsos, swamp them at their roots.

It is a wonder of mine to lose myself in fog.

To sense the same cold hands are wrapped around

my waist, as though the earth will rub me out, will

scrub me clean again. I am a blank page in the woods.

No camp. No quest. No Ashin. There is a daughter

and a sister. There is a little girl on tiptoes touching clouds,

fingers laced with violet flowers. There is no violence here.

 My arrow splinters flesh, splits the snout of the boar, 

skull cracking like a smile and I mirror it. I am good

at mimicking expressions. I practise on the people I meet,

grinning from ear to ear at tiny children lost in my tall tales,

nodding solemnly at older, sombre faces.

Joseon is a looking-glass, and I am her reflection.

She has been kind to me today. My family will

feast when the moon comes up. Thrashing hard

against their chains so I know they are pleased

to see me, smell the blood. I wish my sister would

stop foaming at the mouth long enough for me to

comb her hair – she used to love for me to style it.

Make me a gongju, Ashin! I watch my gongju’s teeth

tear intestines from the boar like silk streamers.

It is good to see her eat well.

Mary Senier (she/her) is a poet from the Black Country and an Assistant Editor for Sledgehammer Lit. She’s been published by Ample Remains, The Madrigal, The Alchemy Spoon, and others. She is on Twitter @MarySenier 

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