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Issue 14
Marco Polo Gets a Blister from New Shoes
Marco Polo Gets a Blister from New Shoes, by Nora Sturges

A kingdom not exactly peaceable
is where you find yourself, footsore and sweaty
on the sand, sock off, curious locals
turning out to greet you: snakes again,

striped this time, writhing toward unseen oases,
kingdoms not exactly peaceable;
a vulture fixed on flesh, where flesh is weak;
horned lizard, spiked and sea-green; two wild boars,

one having left his offering of turds.
You’re thirsty, wrung dry by this arid realm—
A kingdom not exactly peaceable
is putting it politely. Black wings flap:

gourmands of carrion whose scaled talons
clasp green cacti, patient, fascinated
by you, Marco Polo, who dares brave
a wilderness all but impassable,

oblivious to all except the blister.
Pilgrim or exile, look up: in the caudex
of green flesh, spine-drenched and succulent,
water persists, unseen, yours for the taking—

Rise and seek. Nothing’s impossible.