She Who Stops

How can we know she is young, her face still veiled?
She lifts her blank head beside the gates, the downward way.
Her body a bending reed, heavy with juice;
a pliant stalk, half-split, ripe for blooming.
Beneath the black fall of cloth, her mouth hangs open,
questioning, blind. No breath stirs that damp oval
marking where her sharp teeth wait.

Older at once than those already dead, or not yet born,
keeper of every key, She Who Stops,
whose name means gloom, a thing laid flat,
inert, unreconcilable: Leinth of the Shadows,
usheress of all suplicants, all refugees.
It is she who fixes her seal upon your papers,
migrates you from one state to the next. It is she
whose signature renders you a citizen
of that bleak place to which all things return.

Bow down, therefore; scrape low. Salute the one
who cannot be recognized, save by reputation.
And watch her bow in turn, tallest of sombre pines,
to sweep the ground. Sweet Leinth, who makes
her veil a curtain we must yet pass through
into the dark, our faces likewise lost
forever.

[Award-winning horror author Gemma Files is probably best-known for her Hexslinger series (A Book of TonguesA Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones, all from ChiZine Publications). She has also published two collections of short fiction (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart, with Wildside Press). Her poetry has appeared in Goblin FruitNot One of UsMythic Delirium and Strange Horizons.]

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