By Seanan McGuire

What is involved in the transubstantiation of one thing
(Sea foam and mist, scale and sinew, pearl-tinted hands)
Into another, quite against its nature, quite against design?
Roses into women, oh, that’s easy, easy as planting a seed;
All flowers yearn for faces they can turn up towards the sun,
And the rose-owl flies not because she seeks to flee,
But because even now, after she has been a growing thing,
After she has been a woman, she must rejoice in freedom.
Wooden puppets into little boys is no real challenge either;
They’re both creatures of fancy and fun, designed to play,
Designed to run in the green meadows of the living world.
These are no great tests of a wizard’s skill.
If all you can manage is water into wine, be still;
This task is not for you.

Go to the sea, to the wide azure sea,
To the sea where all wizards are children.
Their princesses have a sad addiction to the smiles
Of mortal men—not princes, for they’ve never been so picky.
Wait a while, and one will come, drawn from the cerulean depths,
Coming toward the taste of distant magic, the chance to gamble
Everything she’s ever been or known or dreamed on a stranger’s spell
And the opening of legs like a wound
Where once she bore proud, undamaged fins.
Play the snake in her garden, if you think yourself good enough.
Trying is the only way to know.

Please be advised that this is not a game;
This coach and four must not turn back with the dawn,
This enchanted gingerbread man must run forever and a day.
This is not a spell that can merely be forsaken, taken back,
Forgotten in a bower wrapped with roses.
What you do here, tonight, you do forever.
Be warned, be wary, and beware.

Take her hands and pledge transubstantiation;
Give her what she thinks she wants, take whatever you desire.
They never resist when you promise to hurt them.
See what you can do, what gifts magic can give, and then,
Like the rest of us, those that have hurt and never healed,
You may find that you can finally walk away.


More from Seanan McGuire:

Seanan McGuireSeanan McGuire was born and raised on the West Coast, where she cultivated a love of fairy tales and forests, frequently becoming lost in both.  She lives with three enormous blue cats and too many books.  She writes things.

5 Comments

  1. Oh, WOW.

  2. This is BEAUTIFUL.

  3. Damn. Just…damn.

  4. Incredibly stunning, as always. So bittersweetly true.

  5. A beautiful meditation on magic and love. Thanks for that.

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