Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online

She is of no account, the Elf-Queen’s char,
slim and calm as all her race but dressed in brown,
drab hair pulled back in a sensible knot,
long hands red and always cold from the scrubbing.

The tiles she cleans are all the blues of a sky she has not seen.
Dust gathers, clouding the blue.
The Queen may dance along this corridor
today or tomorrow, or a hundred years hence,
or never.

The Queen will not care that the tiles are the blues of sky.
If she walks this way, she will see neither tiles nor char.
She will not look down.

But her char looks down, and washes each tile.
She rinses carefully, changes the water often.
The tiles glow.

Among her duties, the Elf-Queen’s char tends the slaves,
mottled graceless mortals with weed-quick lives,
brought for Her amusement and to keep the floors clean.
She feeds them, makes sure their kitchen has foods they can eat.
She finds them blankets, soft places to sleep,
a candle when she can spare one.
Humans die for the strangest reasons,
crushed by the dark or the weight of the heavy hills,
frail as bees’ wings.
Their quick hearts give up.

In the moments between working and sleep,
they whisper sometimes:
the blue of the sky,
the silvers of clouds
trees heavy-headed with leaves and rain
the squirrels watching, yelling when you got too close
flowers gold as sunlight,
the sky.
She folds washing cloths with water-rough hands.
She does not mean to listen.

Even their weeds sound brilliant, strong and bright as silk, blues and blues and blues.

Elfland has no weeds,
nothing common or plain.

© 2007 Kij Johnson