STORYTIME

 

STORYTIME

 

If you don’t have fairy tales, how do you live?

The Miller’s Youngest Son answers the riddles.

The Serving Girl rises from the Cinders 

to marry the Prince. If you give a cup 

of cold water to the woman at the well 

you will receive a jeweled reward. If you don’t,

you will spit serpents for the rest of your life.

If the odds are against you, you will win— 

the youngest, the fool, the poorest, outcast, 

the least likely to succeed. Isn’t it

what you want to believe, you, who like me

are all those things and more?  If you finish

the witch’s tasks and don’t ask for  answers,

she will give you all the light you need.

words: SAME STORY

orange

happiness

shallow

line

SAME STORY

I’ve known the story since second grade,

that terrible year. The teacher checking

our fingernails and handkerchiefs,

teaching nothing but tedium. Gray

and marcelled, as chained as I 

to that small-town school.

The stench of hot-lunch goulash.

White bread spread thick with margarine.

The shallow patch of backlot gravel

where we tried to play. 

 

Reading was my happiness.

Sometimes I was allowed 

to sit on the windowsill with a book.

And where would I have found

such a thing in that barren place?

I can still see the drawing clearly—

the line of the girl’s dress,

the dragon’s orange flame.

And the prince—not St. George, I think—

but it was the same tale—

the monster demanding sacrifice, 

the unexpected release. 

 

CORNER OF YOUR EYE

CORNER OF YOUR EYE

 

Does anyone believe in magic now,  

meaning—magic? The wonders of science,

sure. Coincidence, synchronicity,

but magic? Pixie dust? Fairies tickle

your ankles? Elves steal your children?    Ointment

so you can fly? I want belief. Because

when the unexpected. They want us to

believe we cause everything. It’s what we

eat. And we don’t walk ten thousand steps. But

sometimes it’s just chance. Or something else. You

turn and skip and drop your grandmother’s vase;

your dead dad’s iron keys fall out of your

pocket. You step outside as the shooting

star passes overhead while the owl is

singing. The white deer crosses your path. Out 

of the corner of your eye you see a

flicker, and you hear, for a moment, an

echo of some forgotten god’s uncanny laugh. 

PASSAGE

PASSAGE

She went to the oracle

bringing an offering

of incense, a white pebble,

a drop of blood

on a leaf of thyme.

I am empty she said.

 

            Go deeper the oracle said.

 

But I’ve seen the crystals

growing from the floors

and ceilings, I’ve slipped

into the green waters filled 

with white salamanders

and blind fishes, 

I’ve touched the walls

covered with luminous worms

and spiders with legs

as long as my arms.

 

             Go deeper the oracle said.

 

I’ve been all the way in,

she said, all the way

to where the walls

are covered with paintings

of antlered men

and dancing women,

of suns and moons

and disembodied hands.

I’ve tripped over the bones 

of wild bulls and giant bears. 

 

             Go deeper the oracle said.

 

But there is no door, 

no passage, 

leading beyond that deepest cave. 

The only way left

is the way back out.

 

         Ah then, said the oracle.

         Ah.

IT’S A WINDY DAY

IT’S A WINDY DAY

 

Mother Hölle’s coiling 

       up thin threads of whirling

             rain. Tick, I hear her reel 

click. Deer on tiptoe carve a twisty 

         path to the curving

               creek where swallows gyre

at hatching flies encircling

         boys who cast and spool

                 at trout turning

through water’s whorl.  

          In the spinning

               sky, silk  dragons entwine,

                                             their tails entangle

                                                      in the wind.

 

 

June 5, 2009

March Prompts #5: YARN

YARN

March Prompt #5

(Especially for Maggie)

Not far from here in place or time,

there is, in a closet, a box.

A perfect place for mice

 

with yarns of purple, blue, and green,

too many colors to name.

Soft yarns, striped ones, sparkling ones,

 

neat in balls and skeins,

stacked by size in pleasing array.

But late at night—when else?—

 

when the woman of the house is asleep,

they come. Not mice because of cats,

but Tanglers,

 

a tribe of tiny folk. Who knows

where they live in the day?

Their work is simple.

 

By sunrise the box is a mare’s nest,

a gallimaufry, salmagundi.

The Tanglers will not be distracted

 

by good seeds to sort from bad.

Bowls of milk left for them would be

drunk anyway by cats, tiny garments ignored.

 

Oh, to have the focus of a Tangler,

a single-minded dedication to a task.

Any task at all.

Winter Prompt #16: Imaginary Landscape

IMAGINARY LANDSCAPE
Winter Prompt #16

In this place, you cannot get lost.
The birds are kindly. If
there are bears, they stay far away.

In this place, no one is needy
because there is no misfortune,
only a long gentle motion.

Here, all the edges are round.
Every step falls in its place.
Every night is full of stars,
and every dream is sweet.

ALTERNATIVES

ALTERNATIVES

1.

I ate the fish,

though it offered me anything I wanted.

I wanted something to eat,

so I snapped its neck and brought it home.

My wife made soup with a few wild greens.

If she’d known, she would have fussed.

She wants more.

I want less.

Enough to eat,

a roof over my head.

My little boat,

and the water, and the air.

 

2.

I was Vasilisa the fair, destined

to marry the tzar.

I carried Mother’s blessing

like a little doll in my pocket.

I did all the witch required.

I was on the edge of safety,

but I did not heed the doll’s trembling

and I asked about the hands.

Now the doll lies at the bottom of a well

and those disembodied hands are mine,

and the white bones in the fence,

the mortar and pestle,

the chest of wonders.

The skull above the door.

 

3.

When they left for the ball

and the house was quiet,

I went into the garden

and stood beneath the tree

on Mother’s grave.

Stars, a thin moon—

the sky all silver and blue.

Through the silence,

my Mother spoke,

gentle, like a dove.

She told me what to take,

where to go.

Now I’m old,

in my cottage with my cat,

content as any queen.

Why would I want

to be queen, when I have

a gown of moonlight,

a crown of stars?

 

4.

Here, my dear,

is the little hood I wore

when I was a girl.

And here is the little basket

I carried when I went

to see my granny.

I’ve put some cookies

in the basket.

Don’t eat them all

on your way home.

 

5.

It was difficult at first,

that other woman’s daughter,

so lovely and so spoiled.

She resented me, though I told her

I would never try

to take her mother’s place.

(I’d had a stepmother, too,

and I knew how it was.)

When she ran away,

her father and I searched everywhere.

We found her in the forest

with those little men—

you can imagine what he thought

though she insisted all was well.

She would not come home,

though her father pleaded,

offered her dresses, jewels, a prince,

anything she desired.

I told him to let her be.

She was old enough

to make her own way,

strong enough to survive.

When we left her there,

her father said it was like

leaving her in a coffin.

I told him to wait,

and I was right.

She came home

not long afterwards.

It was easier then,

as if we’d become allies,

which, I suppose, we were.

 

6.

On my sixteenth birthday

I climbed the stairs into the west tower.

There was an old woman there,

turning a wheel.

A thin thread formed under her hand,

like magic. She invited me to try,

but I don’t believe in magic,

so I thanked her,

and went back down to the party.

 

7.

Every day, I am thankful

for this generous goose.

Without her, all of us here

would still be poor.

THINGS SHE DID

THINGS SHE DID

Once I was a fisherman

until I caught the talking fish

and ate it—against its objections—

and now I cannot speak

of anything but blue.

 

Once I was a bookbinder

until I bound a volume

of verses about flowers.

Now I am trapped by fragrances

and the lullabies of bees.

 

I was a grave-digger

alone among the stones

with the cool earth around me

until all I could do was

sing to the shovel, and the clay.

 

Once I was a weaver

but one day my fingers tangled

in the web and pulled me in.

Now I go on and on,

a tapestry of knot and scrap.

ONCE UPON A TIME, THE STORIES TOLD

ONCE UPON A TIME, THE STORIES TOLD

 

about the path in the forest

and what you’d find if you strayed.

How manners matter,

respect for elders, kindness

to strangers, even giving them

your last crumb. When it comes

to the point, respect, too, for animals,

because you never know.

About how careful you must be

when you make promises and

what happens if you don’t keep them.

How dangerous it is to offend old women.

(Never, ever, offend old women.)

They told what happened

if you lied, stole from the poor.

They told what always happened

to people who wanted to be like god.