A girl — lovelocked, alone — wanders into a forest
where lions and wolves lie in wait.
The girl feeds them caramels from the pockets of her paper dress.
They follow like dogs.
Each day she weaves for twelve brothers, twelve golden shirts
twelve pairs of slippers, twelve sets of golden mail.
She sleeps under olive trees, praying for rescue.
In her dreams doves fly in circles, crying out her name.
For a hundred years she is turned into a golden bird,
hung in a cage in a witch's castle. Her brothers
are all turned to stone. She cannot save them,
no matter how many witches she burns.
She weeps tears that cannot be heard
but turn to rubies when they hit the ground.
She lifted her hand against the light
and it became a feathered wing.
She learns the songs of mockingbirds, parakeets, pheasants.
She wanders into the forest more herself.
She speaks of her twelve stone brothers.
There is a dragon curled around eggs. There is a princess
who is also a white cat, and a tiny dog
she carries in a walnut shell.
She befriends a reindeer who speaks wisdom.
They are all in her corner. It seems unlikely now
that she will ever return home,remember what
it was like, her mother and father, the promises.
She will adopt a new costume,
set up shop in a witch's castle,
perhaps lure young princes and princesses
to herself, to cure what ails her —
her loneliness, her grandeur,
the way her heart has become a stone.
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.
Copyright © 2006 by Jeannine Hall Gailey. The poem first appeared in The Evansville Review, 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.