A Shapeshifter’s Lament

The following piece is the poetry winner of F(r)iction’s Fall 2022 literary contest

It starts

with the smallest request.

Something inconsequential,

 barely noticeable, behind

the ear, the crook of the elbow. The

slightest engorgement

or deflation,       spikes or gills, colorful

plumage, a cyclops eye.

And it could be anything? he says-

the glimmer of his own shift

happening like heatwaves

under his skin. You

could be anything.

To prove it

I work my skin like smoke, arms

shedding to wings, a splattering of scales that grows from the

stucco walls. My fluid

drips from floor to ceiling,

he catches a drop           

– transforming possibility

into a word         that never left his tongue.

The dance turns my insides

into meadows where bare feet leave muddy imprints

of newly clawed toes.

You’re showing off, he says

as I gather my spores the way an orchestra conductor

gathers sound –

I entwine him in the rhythm of my aortic pulse, filaments

connect root to bloom and expand,

my body

a universe with origins that lap

like ocean waves.

You’re scaring me,

he says, unable to move

under the layers of my titanic being.

Changing shape

can be powerful,

I say as I shrink to

the willowy shadow he once believed me to be.

Intoxicated – he asks

for the body

of an old lover,

a dream, a fantasy as pedestrian

as blood in veins…

like asking Beethoven

to play                  chopsticks,

               instead of Moonlight.

I fold myself

into mundane shapes as he threads fingers

through my hair, possibilities

boiling angrily under my

skin,                      like a god flaying herself

to create the cosmos, while

humans trace stick figures

across her remains.

Lesley Hart Gunn

Lesley Hart Gunn is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, currently living in Utah with her partner, three children and cat named Juniper. Previous publications include Phantom Drift, PseudoPod, Asimov's Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Magazine. Lesley can be found on a brand new Instagram account, medusamakesnoise, that she barely knows how to use but hopes to make at least one good post before forgetting she has it.


Art by KELLEPICS from Pixabay.