You Know the Tale


You know the tale as it was told to maidens

young and grannies old who sit by fires forgotten.

That sad sweet tale of woman’s love which heals the dreadful beast, and turns black dross to gold.


Recall the prince discovered underneath

the monster’s hide, the prince who has since disappeared, though woman searches far

and wide and grannies sit and gnash their teeth.


I was a maiden once, years past and gone;

these days the rules are not as strict as long ago, and so I found my beast and saw the prince

underneath the skin and sang my hopeful song,


as maidens do. Under his furry pelt, I

swore I felt soft skin, ignored the rising

reek, the stench, and vowed eternal love

to the surely long enchanted prince within.


And when he swore he loved me well, that hideous beast did clasp me close and I went willingly to

his palace dank and fell, where

in spite of his foul scent I climbed into his bed.


Two long years I brushed his fur and picked

the lice that crawled across his body;

lay at his side and when he mauled me

pressed my lips into a line, thin and wide.


Sill holding to the tale, the dream,

the promise made by tellers long since dead—that soon the prince would seem a beast

no more, and maid and prince would wed.


I cannot name the day his touch grew sweet

and kind—no longer did I mind, indeed, rejoiced that maid and beast might meet, transform. Swore

that I had found my prince, raised up my voice!


And then he left, not reckoning the child

beneath my breast—went running west

and wild ‘til sun had set. I had his promises

to keep me warm, sweet festerings.


The child chose not to stay. I could not

say it nay for what had I to offer, I alone

and broken-hearted, and so another cord was parted. May it find a better road.


We think ourselves inured to that sad tale

and others of its kind, that ward and wind through modern days. We tell ourselves:

strong women walk instead of wail.


I sit beneath my lemon tree, bedecked, bejeweled in every part, as for the bridal feast, clad in a dress

of sighs.


The grieving heart does know the truth,

the prince I loved, the prince was but a beast, and tales are only lies.