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Tale of the Beast

By Anuja Mitra in Issue Eight, March 2023

first they called me woman,
then sorceress,
then beast.

blessed in girlhood, I knew men
wouldn’t love me for my magic.
a woman must be a door
that is always open; a space
for someone else to rest in,
a harvest outspread in offer.

I suppose I wanted to show them
my body was no place
for their teeth.
still: when I found the spell
to change me, I hadn’t meant
them harm.

then I began to prefer my pelt,
my huskier voice,
the grind of my mandibles
attuned to fear and animal heat,
the scent of men
who took as they pleased.

one cry of a girl would send me
pounding for his throat; an angel
of vengeance in fur and fang.
soon it didn’t take an attack
to summon me. soon
my beast’s desire slid into need.

is instinct a crime?
the Minotaur didn’t know
he was a monster. he just thought
he was Ariadne’s brother —
born, like all of us, craving
a particular kind of meat.

there’s light here yet
in this cell they’ve made me,
and though they’ve emptied it
of my books and potions
they’ll never know how to pillage
my mind:

even now I sense the spell
at my fingers; the key
to release me into my truer skin —
where I’ll remain,
snout to the stars,
laughing the wild night alive.

© 2023 Anuja Mitra

Anuja Mitra

Anuja Mitra lives in New Zealand. Her strange, sometimes surreal poems have been published in journals including Poetry New Zealand, takahē, Sweet Mammalian and Starling, while her stories with a speculative slant have appeared in Lamplight and the anthology Year's Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy. In her spare time, she enjoys patting her cats and browsing indie bookstores for beautiful editions of books she already owns. Her Twitter and linktree can be found @anuja_m9.

Poetry by Anuja Mitra
  • Tale of the Beast