I am not like other women. I try not to be
like other women. I have slept
on a mattress housed inside of a glass box
for years. I have never owned any spinning wheels
except a mind that whirls around in frenetic, dervish
fashion: because of it, I often see quadruple. But those
four pomegranate seeds in my stomach have caused me
more trouble than they were worth.
I am not dripping with innocence, but
I am missing files inside my brain. I didn’t know
that Hades could be a glass box,
and that rogue princes could slide in between
a frigid, translucent edge and a tarnished, gold platform
in order to slip in undetected, take fruit, and
leave. They didn’t take those pomegranate
seeds – else I would have awakened –
nor the cherry – Hades, wearing the mask of
a blonde British man, already took that while he was
looking for a green-card ace to slide up
his sleeve. No, they took blood oranges, passion fruit, and
the occasional tamarind from beneath
my tongue. And some days, I am rummaging
between the folds of my skirts or prying open
the red door behind a breastbone cage in order
to find more honeyed, seed-laden delights to pass along
to Prince Charming – who looks curiously so much
I am not blond. I never was. Blame
whoever you like – starry-eyed Italians trying to
resurrect me in lines of oil and canvas, or neo-pagans
who love symbols from deep elder forests, or
Mr. Disney – they all got it wrong. The good brothers
got the basic story right, but they forgot
about cycles, and returns to stygian kingdoms
I did not ask to reign over. The Morrigan
would dance in the sun: how else could her ravens
find sparkle to steal except by the light that singes midnight
to transform it into gold and azure? And so
I would rather bask in the song of daylight myself,
ripping off my underworld finery and
marching about the streets in sunshine
wrapped like dupattas around my valleys and hills
of skin. But like that old Emperor, I would still
be unclothed, shining the slim, shady amethyst jewel below
the fulcrum of my body where it could catch
twelve million rays of light, making the sun
blush at its very sight: and I hear that
the Universal Opera accepts gemstone tickets
of all kinds.
Oh, and one last thing: I am not a damsel in distress.
But I am thankful for Prince Charming.
So you may ask: why do I still sometimes awaken and
find myself stuck in this damned box? Maybe that’s
the other thing the good brothers got wrong. The
old Greek bards see me crawl back to the half-lit realms
once a year: maybe that explains this recurring nightmare. But
I can’t blame the brothers for writing me as free forever,
released by a slip of a tongue – or a cock, depending
on who they got their tale from first.
Love can break open locks and
pry open the mouths of manacles – but it didn’t bargain
on the beauty who keeps climbing back into the box
and wrapping somnolent air like blankets around her.
I suppose Vishnu – I mean, Prince Charming –
can keep cracking the glass open in manly heroic fashion:
but as much as he loves cycles, I’d rather not
lock him into this one. This time, I’ll be
busting open the glass. And I will never
eat pomegranate seeds or touch spinning wheels
© 2013 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for We Write Poems Prompt #142: Once Upon A Time. We were asked to write a poem from the point of view of a fairy tale character.
I chose to meld two women here: Sleeping Beauty and Persephone, making this potentially part of the Goddess Chronicles poems I started writing some time ago. Persephone made her first appearance in “Sky Drunk” and again in “Holes“, and I thought that it would be perfect to have her wearing the mask of Sleeping Beauty. Persephone has been classically identified, in my opinion, as a “damsel in distress” figure, rescued by either Zeus or Hecate (depending on whose version you read) and I wanted to turn this idea on its head by looking at her through the lens of another “damsel in distress”, Sleeping Beauty.
In my mind, Beauty seems to be a passive figure, waiting to be rescued by Prince Charming. Depending on whose version you read, the prince either awakens her with a kiss or has sex with her while she is sleeping (and this is not just from the pages of Anne Rice’s “Sleeping Beauty” novels — at least two other versions depict that the prince impregnates her in her sleep). What we are looking at here potentially is the idea that a woman must wait for a man to awaken and become knowledgeable of her own sexuality and womanhood — an idea that unfortunately I was taught growing up and what some young women are even being saddled with today.
Is this a feminist poem? Maybe. I have noticed tendencies in women to refrain from solving their own problems and waiting to be rescued. Heck, I’ve been guilty of it myself. While love does reach out to try to help the other person, I am realizing that we must be willing to aid in our own rescue — or even rescue ourselves sometimes — and not allow ourselves to return back to the tower, the dungeon, or the glass box.
Are fairy tales harmful? I’ll leave that for you, the reader, to decide. I think they can give us glimpses into the medieval mind or in some cases promote positive messages (I think Hans Christian Andersen probably is the best at this). However, the message in multiple fairy tales that a woman will be rescued by a handsome prince and “live happily ever after” is deceiving and does not reflect real life.
One last note: you’ll notice multiple elements in this poem. Besides merging Persephone and Sleeping Beauty, you see references to the good old Emperor with the new (non-existent) clothes, the Glass Coffin (another tale by the Brothers Grimm), and some inspiration by Tori Amos (anyone want to go see the Universal Opera?).