Girl, they can't understand you.
You rise from the ash–heap in a blaze
and only then do they recognize you
as their one true love.
While you pray beneath your mother's
tree you carve a phoenix into your palm
with a hazel twig and coal;
every night she devours more of you.
You used to believe in angels.
Now you believe in the makeover;
if you can't get the grime off your face
and your foot into a size six heel
who will ever bother to notice you?
The kettle and the broom sear in your grasp,
snap into fragments. The turtledoves sing,
"There's blood within the shoe."
You deserve the palace, you think, as you signal
the pigeons to attack, approve the barrel filled
with red–hot nails. The great hearth beckons,
and the prince's flag rises crimson as the angry sun.
He will love you for the heat you generate,
for the flames you ignite around you,
though he encase your tiny feet in glass
to keep them from scorching the ground.
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 Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006). It may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.