We are enchantresses, demons, dream-keepers, seers, mystics, witches, saints and harlots. We are bright dreams, empty dresses, proffered swords, sturdy wombs. We are shadow boxes. We are tools in repose.
You fear us, for you understand we keep you utterly in thrall to our prophecies, yet you do not know how. You fear our magic and so you build a cult to our honor. You lock us in lakes. You make poems about us, make us solemn, steal our joy and give us serious faces. You isolate us, you separate us, you set us adrift in boats on currents, our hair tangled in reeds and waves. You would send us off to our oblivion if you could, our usefulness ended.
But we do not need you at all. We are the guardians of our own joy. We do not need your swords. We say honor is a thing you have invented to trap us, we say your cult is a prison, we say your swordplay is a show, hands on hilts the same as hands on swords no matter where the sword may be, no matter which hole it may find. We are not afraid of you.
We are the keepers of all human touchstones. We hold the swords, the scabbards, the shields, the spells, the blood of life and the poison cup. We hold these shores, these bodies of water. We are the star, the pitcher, the wine, the water, the constellations that drown the skies.
We will gift you with life, we will nurse you to health, we will set you on your tasks, and we will finally, graciously, bring you to your death and watch over you in your last sleep. We will draw cloaks over ourselves, singing our spells as the boat leaves the shore, giving back to the water your sword and shield and scabbard. We will pull hoods over our faces to hide our smiles.
Amber Sparks is the author of several short story collections, including The Unfinished World and Other Stories, and I Do Not Forgive You (Liveright). Her essays and fiction can be found widely in print and online, in places like The Paris Review, NYMag, Granta, and Tin House.