Kat Riddell


He left me broken on seamless marble, torn and turned
Inside-out, my heart come up from my throat to lie wet
And heavy on cold stone.

I didn’t cry. I laid in the temple like a tomb, with the hope
That if I lay still enough, like the dead, then sleep would
Take me down through the fissures of the earth,
Across dark valleys and, finally, to the river of forgetting.

The lady came, full of wisdom and fury, she was strength
And wrath and everything I had never been. She held
Me, there on the floor before her, and she pressed the pieces
Of myself back together, into something different, something harder.

She braided my hair into serpents, and she sharpened my
Small teeth into fangs. At her altar she dipped my hands
In molten bronze, leaving talons on my fingers, harder
And sharper than any spear.

We stayed there, together, a year and a day, and she
Taught me to turn my fear into rage, to turn my face
Into something to be feared, and before she left me
She held me to her bosom.

My lady kissed my eyes and turned the light in them
From life to death, so that if anyone would come to me again
I could freeze them in place, make them as cold and unforgiving
As the stone I woke up on.

I left the house and I cursed the sea as I passed its
Foaming waves, and I walked, for another year and a day,
Until I was as far from the sea as I could reach, until
I had found my nest, my viper’s den, dark and safe.

I have not seen my lady in seven lifetimes, but I am become
Her daughter, strong and angry, and unafraid of
The shadows in the darkness. I am the only shadow that moves now.

Kat is a writer and librarian currently based in South Dakota. She shares an apartment with an unfathomable mass of houseplants, an assortment of bones, and a truly overwhelming stash of craft supplies. She likes petting dogs, long walks in cemeteries, and lawns filled with dandelions. You can find her online at