At the edge of the wood,
light cramps the dark.
The trees wither inward
and recede. My lover says
we’ve made it to the village.
I can hear the phantom
of his voice, floating
from the open chimney.

Inside, I shut the oven.
Stepmother’s cries are muted.
I wait for the rising pulse
of steam, the charred fragrance
of heart. Soon the cottage will heat
with her scent. My prince will watch
me spice the kill. He is still calling.

Outside the window, in the dark
harness of my eye, the hunter
stands silhouetted between the trees
and their grasping fingers.
His lips and mine are wet
with pomegranate juice,
lifeblood of the underworld
carried on the wings of wasps.
I lived years without him
and still he moves in shadow.

I turn back to my lover—
prince, polestar, his breath
always blooming on the shroud
of glass I used to wear. Moonlight
pools in the black hollow of my throat.
Here my neck is white and lush and open
to caress, and stepmother is laid to rest

in the singed glow
of the oven’s maw,
her lovely bones
bleached to pearl.

Mishal Imaan Syed is an undergraduate student at UCLA studying English and creative writing. She is the recipient of the Clara Rusk Hastings scholarship and the May Merrill Miller award for creative writing. Her work has been published in Westwind, Open Ceilings, and Equatorial Magazine. She plays classical piano.