letters from the ides

I am writing to tell you

that the apple blossoms have opened

and, for a moment, made clouds

out of the trees. rain has swept

the cherry’s petals 

into great muddy drifts

where they will linger, for now,

in a deficit of brooms—or rather

of hands and arms to sweep them.


we are become molluscs, in a way,

curled up soft and moist

within our shells. sound

reverberates a little differently

through homes turned castles;

I press my cheek against the wall

when the twins cry, learn to recognize

their parents’ footsteps.

a world away. connected.


I try to think of us as coral.

the city, that is—a thing

of shell and rebar, concrete,

glass and grass and promises.

even as polyps retreat

against the coming storm,

we breathe and breathe and

breathe. creatures, for once,

made flesh; and in that, unified.


but you have to understand:


I try to think of us as coral

because the alternative

is to wake in the night

as red blood cells, as marrow,

as the dna-test scrapings

off the inside of a crime scene

while the skeleton of Seattle

struggles on without us—because

if there is anything to learn

from the rot and rent of centuries,

it is that even bones can crumble,

given time.


fear is a nebulous companion.

I did not invite it in. and yet

we are none of us hermetic, none

immutable under strain. I fear

this is a chrysalis. I fear

what might emerge. I fear

more than anything

that it will not

be enough.

I fear


that the deaths

and the wounded

will dissipate

from our memory

as atrocity so

often does, and

leave us frozen

by a future we

cannot prevent.


I fear it will

happen again.


but I

am not

my fear.


I will not be my fear.


and so:


I am writing to tell you that

today, I saw a robin. it clung

to the corner of the sidewalk

and pecked at leaf mulch

caught in the unswept gutter.

worms, I would imagine, had emerged

after the rain, and the bird,

appropriately, would eat its fill.


today, the sky was blue and chill

over the white and pink of flowers,

and the streets, new-washed, stood empty

as at dawn.


in the quarrelling gulls and crow mobs

where our footsteps used to tread,

I must see courage: I must take of this

a caring, a patience, a love

for one another, in this organism city,

that faces the gaping unknown future

& says: together. we will wait, and watch,

and see what comes, and tomorrow, perhaps,

the maple may bud, and perhaps

we will see it

with you.


Author: Jennifer Mace

Jennifer Mace is a queer Brit who roams the Pacific Northwest in search of tea and interesting plant life. A two-time Hugo-finalist podcaster for her work with Be The Serpent, she writes about strange magic and the cracks that form in society. Her short fiction has appeared in Cast of Wonders and the anthology Skies of Wonder, Skies of Danger, while her poetry may be found in Liminality and Uncanny. Her anthology Silk & Steel: A Queer Speculative Adventure Anthology, with co-editors Janine Southard and Django Wexler, may be found through Cantina Press. Find her online at www.englishmace.com.
Photo credit: Karen Osborne.

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