Three days after the birth, faeries emerged from the wood
To steal the baby, leaving in its stead a thing fashioned
Of mud and twigs and old, dead leaves.
At first, no one noticed. It was a quiet baby.
It slept a lot.
Years passed before they realised the truth,
Felt the texture of bark and leaflitter
Under the illusion of baby skin.
They meant well, and so raised the changeling,
The baby that never was. Raised the twig child,
Telling it gently of its nature.
The twig child watched the wood margins,
Waiting to be taken home, expecting one day
To fall apart into mud, and twigs, and old, dead leaves.
Years follow years and the twig child continues,
Cannot explain itself, feels its difference, grows
Looking human but feeling twigs, mud, dead leaves.
Meets its reflection in a woodland pool, surprised
To see lips and eyes, cheeks and soft hair.
Like some proper human.
Wonders long, and uneasy
At changeling tales, sees no twigs, no mud.
Crawls into human skin for the first time,
A lost child, coming home to itself.
Wondering if there ever was a stolen child or why
It had been told such stories, considers
It may no longer be an it.
It could have a name.
It could be a person.
It could be a me.