Archives for category: fairy tales

What’s-his-name

You’re asking me
to do the impossible,
I pleaded with him
as he turned the key
in the lock of the heavy
door. And then I was alone.

Surveying the piles
that towered all around
my little stool, the smell
of straw overwhelmed me
and I cried.

But then I heard a strange
sound: the skipping of tiny feet
belonging to a horrid creature
with the twinkle of a deal
in his shrewd eyes.

Curious and more than a little
desperate, I dried my tears
on the hem of my skirt.

By the fading pink
of twilight, by the cold light
of a moon ray wafting through
the bars of a tiny window,
he worked night after night.
He worked for me, but
he did not work for free.

We exchanged fortunes,
my jewels for his miracles.
But after his third rescue
he struck a cruel bargain.

It took sleepless nights
of sleuthing and prayer,
but in the final hour
I was able to call him
by his real name
and let me tell you,
he hated it.

He returns sometimes
in my dreams, always
to claim my child,
and always with
his foot in my door,
hissing vile things at me
with a voice like death itself,

and every time,
with my baby cooing
in my arms, I firmly
refuse him, trembling
and fierce: Not me,
not my daughter.

His eyes smolder
with evil. Enraged
by my courage, he turns
positively senseless,
sputtering strange things
backwards, broiling with rage
over losing the deal and so much else
he was sure he could claim.

Not me, not my daughter.
I know your name.

Claire Juno, © 2017

…inspired by the fairy tale, “Rumpelstiltskin”.

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Cygnet

To be received is all I want.
I was born to be whatever it is
I am becoming. Why should this
be seen as some disability?

These wings are gray and drab
and I get the sense I am somehow ugly,
not so much by the reflection rippling
beneath me, as by the reactions
of those whom I mistook
for my kind.

I grow, and as I do, I shed my gray
for a more stunning carriage; and yet,
I am still under some false spell
cast by those who cannot see,
and never will.

Alone, I glide to the water’s edge
each night and ponder my lot,
and dream of belonging somewhere,
with some who would call me their own.

Claire Juno, © 2014

 

…inspired by The Ugly Duckling

Fool

My story starts much
like any other, I reckon.
Take these, she said,
these are magic beans
and of course I believed her,
and I see now that I was
a fool to do it, but I’ll
come back to that later.

So there I was, staring
at the beans in my hand,
my cow looking over my shoulder,
a sole witness to my buffoonery
as I dug a hole for them beans,
and for myself as well,
as it would turn out.

Well, that vine twisted
its way into the stratosphere,
and I pretended it was just
a wayward weed whenever
my wife gave me sideways glances
and townsfolk came by to gawk.

One day when the time seemed
right, I began to scramble up
that monstrosity, only to find myself
lightheaded and apparently
deathly afraid of heights.

I’d been had, which was
a first for me, since it’s usually
the other way ’round.

Magic beans, I muttered
under my breath as I climbed down.
Well the Lord giveth and taketh away,
don’t He. And I took my axe and began
to swing with all my strength, but
I couldn’t make a dent.

In my anger, I grabbed hold
of the useless vine, like I was
hugging a tree, as my cow looked on.

There I was, wrestling this vine,
like Jacob had wrestled some strange
angel. And as I continued in my struggle
to overtake it, I realized I was climbing
ever higher and higher, just like that
ladder to heaven Jacob dreamed about.

And as I continued on,
sweating and duking it out
with this vine, stubbornly determined
to get something from it or be rid of it,
I began to think about my brother.

I know I cheated him,
I know it was wrong of me.
My wife is quick to remind me of this.
I wonder if he remembers.

Thinking back to my misdeeds
was enough to give me the shivers,
and so I put him out of my mind
and kept climbing, climbing.
It was just then that I heard him
call my name.

I was so high up my vine,
I could barely make out
the world below me.
But through the mist
of some low clouds,
I thought I saw him there,
holding my axe, looking
as strong and mean
as he ever was.

He had found me,
and I realize now that
to his mind, there was
nothing left to do
but cut me down
and that he did,
grinning most obligingly
as the sound of the axe
echoed in my head
and the vine I once resented
I now clung to for salvation
as it trembled in my arms.

Doc says every bone
in my body is broke.
My wife won’t talk to me.
Had to sell my cow to pay
the doctor. I suppose I deserve it
for believing that a handful
of magic beans could be
some one-way bus ticket
out of here. And that’s where
being a fool comes in.

Claire Juno, © 2015

Beast

Soon the mammoth gates will close,
the last petals fall from the rose,
the magic hour lost.

See now a dim light
on the horizon’s edge,
as darkness with its heady charm
runs for cover.

The battle over, a hand
once outstretched to aid
now retreats to safety.
Kindness only gives danger
a foothold.

His captive eternally bruised,
the beast dies moment by moment.
Whose fate would you choose?
The victory belongs to no one.
It seems the spell upon him
cannot be undone.

Claire Juno, © 2015

Wolf

You tell too many stories, Boy,
and nobody knows what to believe
anymore. The details change
every time— shadows darker, storms
stormier, that yipping in the distance
that surely signals a kill and sends
foolish shivers up your spine.

Stuck in these stories and the transient
attention they afford to someone clearly
desperate to receive it, your allegiance
to the tales you tell throws all you have
into certain jeopardy.

But you are blind to the idea of loss,
content to prey on our emotions, gamble
loyalties and good will, toy around
with our collective sense of caring.
It is all a game to you.

Meanwhile, we know the wolf
is circling, and that is the irony,
for by then you will be fast asleep,
oblivious to the real danger you mocked,
the drama you invented as you teased us
into the countryside in our bedclothes
to rescue what did not need rescuing.

It seems no one can save you now.
Those who can have shut their windows
so they cannot hear your cries.

Claire Juno, © 2016

…inspired by the fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.

Fairy Godsend

You are just a pair of boots, I realize,
and I shouldn’t really be this excited about you,
but I wasn’t expecting you to arrive in the mail today.

And then this package came and I was afraid
to open it and see you for myself, afraid
of what my impulses had rendered that night
in the online auctions.

There was something about the tension
and the thrill of it, and attempting to believe
that my status as winner or loser did not depend
on a ten dollar used shoe purchase.

This emotional vacillation led to confusion
as to whether I really, really wanted you
in the first place.

But secretly, I did — in my other life,
the one in my mind, where I am happy,
because you transform me out of my rags
and into my ball gown self.

So when I pulled you from the tissue paper,
I marveled at your velvety brown smoothness,
and those pretty buckles, and even though
I was wearing old socks, I couldn’t resist
trying you on right then and there.
I slipped into you so perfectly,
I let out a gasp.

It was as though you had been always intended
for me, from some little shop with a cheery cobbler
who makes only Very Special Boots, far removed
from the cruel deprivation of Cinderella realities,
of the nameless and unheard.

Though the rest of me was still very much a mess
inside and out, I felt transported in that moment
to the other side of a magic window, where the life
I had gazed upon was finally mine.

It was hard to watch that night as the minutes
counted down, but impossible to look away.
I had done all I could do, made my best offer,
knowing there were no guarantees.

And deep down I knew if I lost you to another,
it would be a crushing defeat too hard to bear,
after the near-daily reminders of other losing bids;
the finality of auction endings, clocks winding down,
and no second chances.

Claire Juno, © 2013

…inspired by the folk tale “Cinderella”.