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The Lorelei Signal



Written by Devan Barlow / Artwork by Marcia Borell


I always tell myself I won’t answer

When one of the girls calls on me,

Frantic to turn straw into gold

Moss into emeralds

Porridge into perfume

(How do people take these claims seriously?)

Until I see the girls

Frightened, made into bargaining chips

They teach one another my name

They whisper it to themselves, making sure

Each syllable is right

Yet there are so many, sometimes I can’t answer

I might be helping someone else

Turn toenail clippings into sparkling wine

Do not blame the girl who fails

Blame the one who made the claim on her behalf

And ask yourself what caused their desperation

I never demand children in exchange

(Why in the world would I want children?)

All I ever ask, once they are safe

Is that they end this cycle

As queen, ensure that girls are worth more

Than trade goods or adornments

For we are all already so close to breaking

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D Barlow.jpeg

Devan Barlow is the author of An Uncommon Curse, a novel of fairy tales and musical theatre. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, including Crimson Bones and  Mirror Dance. When not writing she reads voraciously, drinks tea, and thinks about fairy tales and sea monsters.


She can be found at her website or on Twitter @Devan_Barlow.

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