The Thirteenth Child

If our thirteenth child is a girl, all her twelve brothers must die, so that she may be very rich, and the kingdom hers and hers alone.
     from Household Tales, collected by the Brothers Grimm.

I never knew
their names. Only
twelve coffins
in one straight line,
filling the cold grey crypt.

I never wanted
more bones. Only
those already
in my hands,
toys for our plain stone halls.

I never knew
true wealth. Only
the gold glittering in
fairy tales,
absent from our own stone crypt.

I never wanted
death. Only
voices, hands,
silken words
to fill the cold grey halls.

I hold a kingdom
of dry bones,
a kingdom of
shadowed whispers.

                           If only
I could have known my brothers.
If only I had
more than coffins.

If only this gold
did not burn my skin,
did not burn me with its cold.

(Editors’ Note: “The Thirteenth Child’ is read by Erika Ensign in the Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 7A.)

Mari Ness

Mari Ness lives in central Florida, not too far away from mechanical dinosaurs who haven’t escaped their human overlords—yet. Her work has appeared in, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Fireside, Apex, Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and right here at Uncanny. She is also a contributing writer for and The Baum Bugle. Her poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, was released last year by Papaveria Press. For more, follow her on Twitter at @mari_ness, or watch her blog at

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