It’s A Question of Blame

This story is paired with “The Three Apples” from 1001 Arabian Nights. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 


I wake up and I can’t find my hands.
My forearms are now the skins of grapes
and my wrists have become bright

splayed fans of pinions in green and gold,
but they’re orphans—they have the capacity to fly
but they have no knowledge of the process.

My feet are gone—where did I leave them?
And it’s dark, it’s so dark. I worry, have my feet
taken on a metal cast, have they been wrapped

and carpet bagged and are they below my neck?
My neck is a river and teeming with cardamom-
laced white fish. It would be delicious, if warmed.

It’s cold. My ankles must be with my feet. They
are hollow, they contain wasps and silk shawls.
And I had three apples, one as red as wine-blushed

lips, one as green as centurion copper, and one
yellow, as gilt sand on the banks of the Tigris.
Yes, it was first I couldn’t find my hands because

they had held two apples, one was spoils for a thief.
My hair has life and form, it dances now as wisped
weeds among the waters. I see it now, yes.

When you cut my hands I became a golden cipher.
When you cut my neck I became a coiled question.
The answer was never to cast me in the rushes—

cyanide distills from the seeds of the apple. My
lips should never have touched that fruit of dark art.


NBR3SteinphotosmallJen Stein is a writer, advocate, mother and finder of lost things. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where she works in family homeless services. Her work has recently appeared in Nonbinary Review and Stirring, and is featured in a micro-collection in Wood Becomes Bone. Upcoming work will be featured in Menacing Hedge, Cider Press Review, the Northern Virginia Review, and by Luna Luna Magazine.