“Marriage Among Shapeshifters” by Miriam Axel-Lute

When stealing your loved one back
from fairies or gods or Satan
you should be prepared for the moment
in the story when her captors
will change her into things
hard for you to hold—
snarling, venomous beasts
fire, ice
distorted reflections
of yourself and every mistake you
squelched through to land here.
If you hold on no matter what,
the story goes,
you break the spell,
win your love,
bring her home.

What they don’t tell you
is that the next time she shifts
she won’t be going back.
There is no back, only forward and again.
How hard do you hold on
as your own hands turn scaly
and unfamiliar
and still less like hers
without the bard looking over your
shoulder, moving the story along?

At every age we underestimate,
the psychologists say,
how much we have yet to change,
no matter how much we have changed already.

How hard would you have held on that first
night on the lonely moor
with the coldly furious Folk on their horses
in motionless pursuit
if you knew that what was on offer
was that you could rescue
whatever she would become
at the stroke of midnight
and you weren’t allowed to check your watch?

Miriam Axel-Lute is a performance-oriented poet from Albany, NY. She edits Shelterforce magazine and wrote a column for the alt-weekly Metroland.Miriam has given featured readings at venues from pulpits to bookstores to living rooms all over the Northeast, and has three chapbooks: Souls Like Mockingbirds, Packing to Stay, and One Turning: Poems for the Wheel of the Year. She tweets at @miriam_mjoy.

Image by David Buchi from Pexels

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