Stone Telling

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The Changeling's Lament

by Shira Lipkin

the girl's voice

the changeling voice

I have studied so hard
to pass as one of you.
I've spent a lifetime on it.

I have tells.
Blisters, tremors, bruises,
all the signs that I was not meant for your world,
was not meant to be contained
in your clothes,
your shoes.
I have this terribly inconvenient allergy
to cold iron.
Hives, really.
I stand out.

When I was little,
I asked my alleged mother,
what's a girl?

She said
you're a girl,
and she laced me into dresses
(that I tore off in the school parking lot,
in line for the bus).
Laced me into ballet shoes
that left blisters
and bloodied my feet
until I had calluses.
Which she had filed off,
beauticians pinning me down,
because it's not beauty
if you don't bleed.

My dancing was different.
My dancing was swaying treelike,
or launching myself across the room,
spinning madly,
but that is not what girls do,
not human girls,
not ladylike,
not contained.

And everything
is about containment
is about being delicate
and pretty
laced into corsets
whalebone stays digging into your ribs
because it's not beauty
if it doesn't hurt.

But I studied.
I pretended.
I hid the bruises
and the tics.
I hid the big dark parts of me.
I tamed my hair.
I watched my mouth.
I hid my magic.
I did not speak of such things
because we do not speak of such things –
not anger,
not homesickness,
not longing.
Not this sense
that I don't know what the hell
a human girl is
and I can tell, I can,
that everyone knows I don't belong here.
I laugh too loud;
I am too fast or slow to laugh.
I am an anthropologist in the field of girl.
I study
but none of it
ever comes

None of it is in my nature.

I am something larger,
more fluid,
less constrained.
But I am stranded in this place.
I have had to learn how to live here.
I have tried.
So hard.

Shira Lipkin is a writer, activist, mother, and nexus. She has managed to convince Electric Velocipede, Chizine, Interfictions 2, Mythic Delirium, and other otherwise-sensible magazines and anthologies to publish her short fiction and poetry. She lives in Boston with her family and the requisite cats, fights crime with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, is taking suggestions for her burlesque name, does six impossible things before breakfast, and would like a nap now. You can track her movements at and Please do. She likes the company.

Read Shira's discussion of this poem over at the Roundtable!

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Photography: Untitled, by Graham Blackall.