I love fairy tales. I always have. I love them for their darkness and their spite, their sickness and their slanted sort of health. I love hidden variations on their themes present, unexpectedly, in the oddest corners of literature. I love seeing them twisted and hinted at and expounded upon. My most evocative mindscape – well, one of them – is a rambling Bavarian cottage lousy with secrets and maybe-truths.
Today I’m Cinderella simultaneously before and after. Cinderella in her lacy altogether returning to the hearth she once called her whole world. The tricky part is figuring out which, the before or the after, is the tragedy.
I wrote this poem when I was fifteen. I call it City Girls.
Stories are just that,
flights to pace and prowl,
the bones of poetry and secrets:
into these we build our lives.
Do you remember
the stories from your childhood
do you –
ever let those musty books
take purchase in your mind?
Do you ever let those figures
the bones of creation,
the archetypes of nascence,
to be filled in by the
flesh and faces
of real time?
That woman on the corner
could be Rapunzel,
skinny and cigaretted
her walk-up patio perched high
against a low-down world.
If I wanted to see her
I’d take the stairs
because her hair’s too short and smoke-stained
to ever really shine.
Snow White for the cyber age
Chinese chambermaid, quietly bred
emptying the wastebasket
on the corner of Seventh and Main.
oblivious to the congress
of colliding tales
just below her window,
stands under five feet
and she’s got
thin humble lips
and a home-stitched face
not anonymous enough for comfort,
and no one will exalt her
in a transparent coffin
when she pops off.
Snow thinks the subway is
for all its jerks and belches
there she can rest her
bound and weary feet.
Sharing her low-slung plastic bench
is the girl in yesterday’s makeup
and last week’s clothes.
Frosted hair won’t come
back into fashion in greater Manhattan,
but her crowd appreciates it;
they’re the ones flicking cigarette ash
and fending off the down-lows
in their potbellies
and leather jackets
who crave more tricks than
they can pay for.
Where is she going, dressed like that-
is there an appointment in the world
worth requiring such an abusive shade of red?
I’d like them all to meet, someday
in that pub above the laundromat
Rapunzel with her bored lips,
Snow White with her deference,
Sleeping Beauty with her pierced-heart narcolepsy.
Each asleep in one way or another,
each missing a piece potent enough to
wake up her corner of the world.
Blouse: Downtown Threads Skirt: Goodwill Boots: Battery Street Jeans Hat, Tights, & Bra: Gifted Necklace: Family heirloom
I cringe to disrupt the mood of this post, but I want to emphasize that this poem is absolutely not to be read as sex-work negative or prejudicial in any other way. Sex workers are laborers who deserve to see their work legitimized. Sleeping Beauty has a hard life and she is a prostitute, not necessarily because she is a prostitute. (The same can be said, in different ways, of my poem’s other two characters, though their lives aren’t quite as politicized.) Sex workers’ lives run the gamut of human experience, because they’re, you know, human. I apologize for the aside, but the safety, autonomy, and legitimacy of sex workers is one of my pet issues. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend the blog Tits and Sass.