Souvenirs From Above

The Acheron stretches muddy and dank
Becoming black where it meets the Styx
Charon poles his boat slowly
Breathing in the misty rankness of the marsh
Until he sees a figure on the bank
Her ugly face stretched by a true smile

Eris holds a bag in her hand
The dead on the shore bargain with her
There is nothing they have she wants
Charon eases the boat to its landing
Scattering errant souls with the pole
And gives his sister a hug

She is never bothered by his smell
By the greasiness of his beard
Or the dampness of his clothing
Eris holds him tightly and sighs
“If only you could come up with me”
Easing away, she kisses his cheek

She spills the bag on the ground
Sifts through her spoils of discord
Charon fingers a clump of wool
White and black together
“From the prize ram of a king”
He holds it against his cheek

A seashell glistens in the low light
“From the realm of the nereids”
Around them the souls cluster
Begging and cajoling, or holding out coins
“Can’t you see he is busy?”
Eris scares them away with her glare

From the pile she pulls
The best gift of all: blood oranges
The smell pierces the swampy air
Juice squirts out as he peels his
They eat together and pretend
Someday he will leave this place

[Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from Seattle.  She has stories and poems published or accepted in: Escape PodGrimdarkSpellboundSword and Sorceress XXIIISpinetinglersShe Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror and others.  She is editing an anthology, A Quiet Shelter There, which will benefit homeless animals and is due out in 2015 from Hadley Rille Books.  See more at]