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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2022 - Vol. 19, Issue 1

"A Ward Against the Graeae" and "From The Drowned"

written by

Lorraine Schein

A Ward Against the Graeae*

In this silenced city fraught with spring. Lock your door against them, the three Gray Sisters: Anxiety, Trauma, Panic— snake-faced, blinded by secrets, bereft of childhood. Hair coiling like tendrils of smog, they beckon.

Practice safe distancing. Keep six feet away from your tormenting memories. Draw a pentagram on your walls for protection. Invoke absent angels, and the gods that always fail you. Wash your hands until your cracked lifeline bleeds.

They live in this emptied socket of a city, hollowed out by infection. In the hissing cavern of your dreams, they grope for their one eye, slimy as a jellyfish, to slide between them.

Its black pupil holds the worlds beyond death, dilates with madness, visions gone viral, lid twitching in R.E.M. as nightmares spike your brain.

The Gray Sisters feel for their shared tooth, a bat’s fang, clasped to hollow mouths, jammed into flaccid pale gums. At the next full moon, make a clear quartz amulet to repel them. Shock your mind silent before the Graeae stumble upon you, taint you forever with their relentless mysteries.

Your world’s a gouged-out globe, plucked from the sky, blighted and scorched.

*The Graeae were three sisters in Greek mythology, who shared one eye and one tooth among them. Their names were Deino (dread), Enyo (horror) and Pemphredo (alarm).

From the Drowned

So beautiful and silent here,

Ophelia and Virginia say.

We come from the water,

so had no fear of return that way.

When seas rise and shores vanish into sand,

let your body accept the ocean’s bottomless cold.          

Learn to live on islands raised away from land,

like the wizards and enchantresses of old.

Build your houses on sharp cliffs,

safe from the rising tide

far above the crashing breakers

over which the seagulls glide.

You won’t have to put stones in your pockets,

or dive headfirst in wild despondency,

or like our friend Percy, shipwrecked poet,

fall from a storm-caught boat in Italy.

You’ll have time to adjust, begin anew,

and even say goodbye,

before the waves fill your lungs too

and your body dies.

Drowning is difficult to do—

but we need not attempt to rise:

we float up easily to meet you

as if we were alive.

Say Ophelia and Virginia and Percy

and all those with flooded eyes

staring sightless upward

at the water’s skies.

Lorraine Schein is a New York writer. Her work has appeared in VICE Terraform, Strange Horizons, Enchanted Conversation, Mermaids Monthly, and in the anthology Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana del Rey & Sylvia Plath. The Futurist's Mistress, her poetry book, is available from Mayapple Press

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