Photo by Daria Shevtsova


all you ever wanted was to dance, 
my girl of ash and fire, sweeping dust by starlight,
stitching rags and tinsel into patchwork gowns.
you saw the greed in their eyes, the way 
they devoured your mother’s old clothes,
the way they locked you up in the attic
and when you looked into the mirror,
you saw the wolf and the mouse of your twin
soul, begging for something you could not
name. you who never wanted to be saved
(only found). burnt fingers tracing over backyard
pumpkins and the gnarled oak in the forest,
where your mother lies (restless). in the evenings,
you dreamed by the fireplace, red sparks glittering
like love-struck eyes in the dark, songs 
of dead women whispering on your tongue.


the night you chose to run away, the sharp-
edged winter wind warned you of what
was to come, of old debts and family curses
you were destined to pay for. he saw you, blue 
as frostbite, wild soot-stained hair and manic eyes, 
your heart, a birdhouse of caged fluttering
wings. his touch on your neck, wound up
an ancient derelict clock, tick-tock it went, 
and you knew this had to end, that love was as real 
as faerydust or a pumpkin-carriage drawn 
by mice-turned men, that he, like all the people
you hid yourself from, cared not for you
but the night, the songs, the glass you wore…
a dance was all you’d wished for, not a stranger 
desperate to follow you home (i repeat, this is not 
what you wanted at all, but every wish has a toll.)


and so he found you like buried treasure, his promises 
cutting more deeply than glass and you begged
the chimney to swallow you up, all the way
into the grey-sad sky, you begged the mice
to nibble you away in sleep, the forest spirits 
to claim you as tree or leaf or flower, anything 
but a woman who dreams of a world with choice.
jealous, they even cut off their toes but all in vain, 
for the clock was ticking and you needed to fit, 
neat and smug, inside the fable, the glass slipper in place 
and a ring to bind you, a servant girl once and now a toy-queen
for all the nights, you imagine (as he kisses your sad lips)
after he’s taken off your patchwork gown and had his fill, 
dreaming by the tower window, of cinders alighting 
the encircling forest, where the old oak weeps as silently 
as your story-empty heart, for all the birds have flown.

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Archita Mittra
Archita Mittra is a writer and artist, with a love for all things vintage, whimsy, and darkly fantastical. She also reads tarot cards, has more hobbies than she can count and loves blueberry milkshakes. She's currently pursuing her Master's in English Literature from Jadavpur University and lives in Kolkata (India) with her family and rabbits. Her work has been published in Strange Horizons, Thought Catalog, and elsewhere. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @architamittra and check out her blog here.