Questing Done Right: The Goblin Market

The seasoned traveler will avoid the goblin market;
the warnings are plentiful, public domain, illustrated.
But the first rule of questing is at some point
you will need a thing far from your hand,

so we offer this short list of travel tips for those
who must turn their steps where elements meet,
go down into the market where some never
return. Before you leave, look in the mirror

and add three things to your outfit; they may
become currency later, and besides, it spites
that lesser demon. Cultivate nicknames
from your youth, don’t be lazy with your

true ones. If you can be two or even
three things, so much the better; a shifting
nature shifts with the breathing winds
that blow life into the market. Learn to haggle,

not like white Americans in a tourist market,
but like you’ve thought on the true value
of kisses and thunderstorm days and teeth
and drops of blood. Know exactly what

you can live without, for what you need.
Like our travelers who love the casino life,
the house always wins, no clocks allowed,
and the drinks don’t even pretend to be free.

It doesn’t suit us when you don’t come back
because you sold yourself in unfamiliar units,
lost your true name trying for your true love,
traded your shoes for distance that ripped you

into neat halves. Of course you’ll take in
the sights, the harpy who accounts for
white lies, the satyr whose singing sea shells
can summon up drowned treasures,

the selkie who scrimshaws the maps,
the great hulder who can give your child
a destiny for a sanguine price, the pixies
who’ll trade strands of interesting hair

for potions to make you one with everything,
which is a sucker bet considering what
you can weave with the hair of seekers,
versus a weak LSD cocktail with a 

moondust rim. Not worth a half dried scab,
really, even if you favor dusty dreams.
Don’t follow everyone who seems helpful,
but share your food, and resist theirs.

No peaches from Annwn for you, no
golden fleece gyros, no Hesperides apples
or underground pomegranate vinaigrette.
If a young rooster leaps into your arms,

that doesn’t make it a dinner volunteer.
If you must go to the Market on the way
to your vital destination, remember the way down
is much shorter than the way up, the wind

plays tricks, the face does not betray the soul,
do not take bone coins in trade, keep
your shadow firmly sewn to your feet,
your goal secure in your heart. Remember

all the stories that don’t get told because
in the middle of the rescue or the caper,
the Market took a would be hero and made
a nameless thing that wanders ever lost.

[Elizabeth R. McClellan writes: I am a disabled gender/queer demisexual poet writing on unceded Quapaw and Chickasha Yaki land in what settlers call the Mid-South. In my other life, I am a domestic and sexual violence attorney working with Latinx immigrant survivors to provide holistic civil legal services. I am a previous winner of the Naked Girls Reading Literary Honors Award, and a multiple time and current Rhysling Award nominee. My work has appeared previously in Strange Horizons, as well as in Apex Magazine, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Chrome Baby, Goblin Fruit, Stone Telling, Utopia Science Fiction, Apparition Lit, Illumen Magazine, Mirror Dance and many others. Work from me is forthcoming at Nightmare Magazine. I can be found on Twitter and elsewhere as @popelizbet and on Patreon at]