A Shapeshifter’s Lament
Words By Lesley Hart Gunn, Art By KELLEPICS
The following piece is the poetry winner of F(r)iction’s Fall 2022 literary contest
with the smallest request.
barely noticeable, behind
the ear, the crook of the elbow. The
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,
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.
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.