Starskin, Sealskin

She wraps herself in the sparkling sky
A black sari of sleekest night
Ageless maiden clothed in mortal form
In her chest beats a mirror pool
Rippling with regret
Solitude lived in shadow stings, it says
Sip your grief, sip your grief

The stars in her sky-silk
Are heavier than salt
Gleaming, ringing in each jewel
Her feet bear the phantom weight of iron shoes
The prick and pull of briars round her ankles
Her sari-stars burn her as the sky sings down
A story inscribed in a silver constellation
Old light like old mistakes crossing the dark
Starskin, sealskin
Blaze and brine
A voice that sang with yours
Sip your grief, sip your grief

Her back is bowed beneath a pack
Of storied silks from each tale she has traversed
Satin creaks under heavy jewels or tangles
Tussles with embroidered beasts
That snarl in their hems, seams singing, stinging
None of them fit, these worn memories
Least of all the sealskin
Weeping salt, sleek and gleaming labradorite
Almost hers, so close, so close
For this she fought, for this she fled:
A single stolen pelt
She knows must now be returned
Seek sunset hair, red as apples, red as blood
Sip your grief, sip your grief

She yearns to trust, to be forgiven
A single name shines on her well of regret
Soft as a moon lantern
A hand that beckoned to the sea, away from the stars
She’d longed only to know, too, just once
The elusive touch of the surf
She crouches now at the border of sand and salt
Crooning to the hand and the one who owned it
Shaking out the pelt on the glimmering shore
All the colors of seals and stars and castoff stories
And reaches her own small hand to the sea
So heavy this mantle of mourning
Sip your grief, sip your grief

The stars are in the sky and in the sea
Bridging across the between of air and water
Between friends who once loved, fought, parted
She sings and sings, and she hopes
From the waves, a seal girl rises, hand outstretched
Apple hair, sun hair coiling down her bare skin
Her smile, though distant, warms as fingers close on her pelt
The star maiden unwinds her silk, a spangled pool on the sand
And extends it in offering, in apology
“Now,” she says, words aglow, “wend through fields of comets
As I have swum through dreams of brine.”
And she, too, smiles
Share your grief, shed your grief
Sing, sing with your sister on a starry, shining shore

(Editors’ Note: “Starskin, Sealskin” is read by Erika Ensign in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 17A.)

Shveta Thakrar & Sara Cleto

Shveta Thakrar is a writer of South Asian-flavored fantasy, social justice activist, and part-time nagini. When not making stories, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, draws, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp. Sara Cleto is a PhD candidate in English and Folklore, teacher at the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, and writer of fairy tales. She procrastinates by reading, cooking, traveling, and singing whenever the opportunity presents itself. Together, Shveta and Sara rip the seams out of old tales and expectations and sew the scraps into beautiful new shimmering tapestries. Shveta’s work can be found in Flash Fiction Online, Interfictions Online, Mythic Delirium, Uncanny, Faerie Magazine, Strange Horizons, Mothership Zeta, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, Clockwork Phoenix 5, Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, and Toil & Trouble. Sara’s work can be found in Faerie Magazine, Goblin Fruit, Liminality, recompose, Uncanny, Mythic Delirium, Cabinet des Fées: Scheherezade’s Bequest, Eternal Haunted Summer, Mirror Dance, Rhonda Parrish’s Alphabet Anthologies, and more.

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