Skinchanger Tales

by Maria Velazquez

i. seal

i wanted the sand, rough, to scrape me
be soft and skinless
so i left it puddled by the beach, near the sea
something else to dive into
i wanted to feel the sun

he startled us all, hairy and male, he
took what was mine and made it his
he snatched it
i imagine my skin felt warm in his hands

i swerved, my sisters pulled me along,
i dove with them, we are hawks of the sea,
but the water was heavy, and blue, and when it
closed over my mouth i began to gasp
is this drowning?

he said it’s love
he held my skin in his hands and
he said love me and it will one day be yours
love me be my wife faithful, true
then i’ll give it back
maybe i’ll give it back

ii. dragon

i was a dragon i breathed
fire and i flew the borders
along the dark horizon sky
a spiraling flag, a purposeful cloud,
a warrior patrolling her domain
i knew my own name
i knew my home’s name
i knew the shadows of my trees, splayed
like the fingernails of the sun,
dark with grit and joy

i landed and the ground was hard
i landed and met a man he said lovely
you are so fierce you are my heart my
heart my heart in the sky, beating, would you

his face was kind i wanted
his mouth to taste
but not to eat
(be gentle they are so

i had babies then, lovely squalling things
i knew they were dragons too
like me we hid under the bed we hid
in closets i knew when they grew large
i would show them my edges my scars
my skin moldering in the corner
remind them
‘there, we are dragons – here, not.
be gentle
they are so fragile.’

my new kin could only walk
but they tugged me down,
showed me
the underside of trees their leaves
green sunlight moving through them
grass soft
like a human’s skin after baths
i touch it, am careful not to breathe too hard
only singeing the littlest bit

my new clutch plays with their sire, dragon eyes
burning towards the sky,
pudgy hands yearning for his hold
‘this is good,’ i say to him, ‘but be
they are so fragile.’

iii. fox

our play is a game of words and flesh
i bite and you squeal
i move and you

i keep my eye on it, always,
and when you, flailing, make as if to
i leap off, grab it, and go.

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