I'd rather be mistaken for an animal.
If you knew what I ran from,
how my mother cursed me with golden hair, this face.
She left me a father obsessed with her image.
I fear your eyes, just as I feared his.
This coat offers shelter.
So you put me to work in your kitchen, assumed
I was a magical beast, or a lunatic child,
and I keep dropping hints in your soup:
one night, a tiny spinning wheel,
the next night, a gold ring
trying to tell you who I used to be.
I can dance just as I used to dance,
in dresses shining as the stars,
in dresses pale as the moon,
but I am not the same princess.
In older stories, where I am a saint,
I never even get to the safety of you.
My disguises fail. I am found by my father.
Sometimes, he cuts off my hands;
other times, he cuts out my tongue.
About the Author: Jeannine Hall Gailey's poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Rattle, Columbia Poetry Review, and other journals. She is the author of one collection, Becoming the Villainess, and one chapbook, Female Comic Book Superheroes. She lives in Seattle. For more information, visit the author's blog.
Note on the Poem: Allerleirauh, loosely translated, means "coat of many furs" in German. This fairy tale, a version of which is included in Grimms' collection, resembles several stories of female saints who lived between the 2nd and 12th centuries.
Copyright © 2006 by Jeannine Hall Gailey. The poem first appeared in Diner, and was reprinted in Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006). It may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.