The old woman who hands you an apple

I always eat what I eat, alone. So
true, that what spills from our lips
has a life of its own. Flowers, jewels,
toads, and bones: I speak in streamers
to cast my spells.
You, you swallow what you cannot keep:
gingerbread children, a red riding cape,
a river stone heated to make stone soup.
You give it all back to me at the crossroads.
I stitch what I know, and it unravels in your hair:
a ribbon, a kerchief, a scarf for the mourning.
Come bite of my apple and then, truly know.
My hand sheds snakes and shakes
and I will not scream. Girl, I carry all your stories
like wolves carry the disease.

Betsy Aoki

Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki is a poet, short story writer and game producer. She has received fellowships and residencies from the City of Seattle, Artist Trust Foundation, Hedgebrook, and Clarion West Writers Workshop. She has a short story in Upper Rubber Boot Books’ anthology, Sharp & Sugar Tooth: Women Up to No Good, and her Uncanny poem “Okuri Inu, or the sending-off dog demon” was nominated for a Rhysling Award.

You can find her tweeting at @baoki or contact her via her website at


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