Stone Telling

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Thousands of Years Ago, I Made This String Skirt

by Alex Dally MacFarlane

Not that bright. Not that bright.
I'll show you—

It was bright when I made it,
this string skirt you can't see.
It was red and black and bronze
and heavy—
How it swung over my thighs when I danced!

Not that complicated. Not that complicated.

Turn string into this. Try it.
Make it heavy and beautiful.
Wrap it around your hips.
Otherwise you can't know what it is,
being alive, being a woman—

It is joy, it is fear.

Not that important. Not that important.

Every breath I took was important.
Every step,
every sweep of this string skirt across my thighs.

It was weighted with bronze when I made it,
this string skirt you can't touch,
rotted in the earth,
and only the bronze remains—
Heavy as life!
Heavy and hard and mine.

You admire it for its former metal-wealth.

It has fused against my bones,
                            my body—

You catalogue it,
you determine that I made children,
you say that's what the skirt was for.

My bones remember dancing
in quiet times when no work needed to be done,
in private, away from you.

My bones remember me.

Alex Dally MacFarlane lives and works in London, where the foxes cross paths with her at night. Her fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, and her poetry in The Moment of Change, Goblin Fruit, Stone Telling and Here, We Cross. A handbound limited edition of her story Two Coins was published by Papaveria Press in 2010.

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

Photography: adapted from Mummy with fur by uncredited photographer.