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The Nymphs Are Migrating

By Madalena Daleziou in Issue Three, March 2022

In the small hours, under the wolf light
my best friend throws peanuts
at my window. It is the nymphs.
They are migrating.

The scorched mosaic
of dirt moans under my feet.
The woods are dressed in red
but not the red they should be.

too soon, too soon

In my part of the world, summer is
treacherous. They blackmailed it with
cigarette butts, with stolen oils from
its mother’s belly, they forced it to
stretch—longer, hotter, suffocating
its brothers with sweaty pillows.

Autumn escaped the last moment
turned into a silent thief, breath-long
when there’s still air to breathe,
a foreshadowing of winters harsher
than your grandmother’s that catch you
from behind, knife against your throat as
autumn lets the reins fall at its feet.

too late, too late

In a primary school production
my best friend played a nymph
in a pixie haircut. We had never
thought their hair would be shorter
than his own but here they are,
a funeral procession in blackened lungs
instead of black gowns, pulling out
the remains of their crisped curls as
they lament. One sports fungus-like
blisters on her cheeks, one cradles
her raw arm like the baby the flames
snatched away from her embrace.

Persephone, home for the summer,
cried, not for her underworld exile
not this time, nor for her husband’s
cold breath and juicy pomegranates,
but because her mother’s tears were not
enough to quench the cracked earth—

We wish we could tell this story but, in truth,
Persephone didn’t shed a tear. They all
evaporated into sweat, perhaps, or else she
gave up on this land after the thirtieth
black smoke factory, and resolved
to go under earlier each year.

We wish we could tell a story of
the nymphs returning victorious
but in fact, we only ever saw them
leaving—pulling out crisped hair and
dead skin, clutching a baby owl here,
a battered turtle there, with homes cracked
like their own. We wish we could tell
a story of them going to a better place
where red and yellow means autumn,
not flames licking ancient trees.

But there are no better places
in this feverish world we inherited,
only half melted crayons and
papers with burnt edges so that
we can draw new ones,
only precious seeds to plant when
scorched soil reawakens, to water with
our sweat and pollinate with our rage,
only stories of better places,
green as our brightest crayon
and withered

too soon.

© Madalena Daleziou

Madalena Daleziou

Madalena Daleziou is a pushcart-nominated Greek author living in Glasgow, where she studied an MLitt in fantasy literature. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lucent Dreaming, The Deadlands, and the other side of hope, and she is currently seeking representation for her neo-Victorian fantasy novel. She can most often be found in a bookshop or behind a keyboard writing stories with too many ghosts. Follow her on Twitter at @LBooklott.

Poetry by Madalena Daleziou
  • The Nymphs Are Migrating