2013 Rhylsing-eligible LONG poems

Only upload 1 poem with your name on top and with verifiable publication information as instructed, as well as hot links to your entire portfolio of eligible poems.

Please, no comments, only poems.

John C. Mannone
2013 Rhysling Chair

10 Responses to 2013 Rhylsing-eligible LONG poems

  1. Shira Lipkin says:

    Mushroom Barley Soup: An Invocation
    Shira Lipkin

    Stone Telling #8

    for Esther Smolowitz, 1914-1989

    When I curse, my profanity sours the broth.

    I can’t be too careful –
    years of trial and error,
    singing like my grandmother,
    tripping forth the same mondegreen
    (even though I know the lyrics) –
    searching for the magic combination
    that makes the food hers
    makes it right
    makes it home.

    Each time, the ritual grows more elaborate,
    complex –
    her apron
    the way her socks drooped
    the hum behind her words
    all of it hall-of-mirrors duplicated
    down the years and down the kitchens
    until I feel her,
    just a wisp,
    standing beside me,
    sprinkling the salt.

    Old magic
    food magic
    grandmother magic.

    I try everything –
    maybe it’s the bowl,
    green Depression glass
    it’s not her soup without it –
    I try leaning as she did,
    toward the end,
    speaking half-nonsense
    in the Yiddish she hardly knew.
    She was born here,
    learned from grandparents,
    a smattering a scattering
    good American girls don’t –

    I let slip a modernism.
    She slips away.

    I restart the ritual.
    Wooden spoon
    sensible shoes
    slow-chopped mushrooms
    singing singing
    hesitate – there –
    and I feel her creeping back.

    She was not much taller than me.
    Gnarled like friendly old trees
    by the time I knew her;
    never moved without pain.
    I must be slow,
    be patient.

    My grandfather died when I was ten;
    she never made the soup again.

  2. kelly rose pflug-back says:

    LONG poem:
    Kelly Rose Pflug-Back
    Sweet Mercy: Her Body An Ark Of Wild Beasts
    Ideomancer, March 2012
    Sweet Mercy: Her Body An Ark Of Wild Beasts
    There are dead who light up the night
    of butterflies,
    and the dead who come at dawn
    to drink your tea
    as peaceful as on the day your
    guns mowed them down.
    – Mahmoud Darwish
    My life has been the tin ribbons of a jaw harp,
    its bent notes twanging
    in the lightless space cupped between my hands.
    I’ve tried to make sense of it:
    the button eyes of cloth animals,
    frayed cotton straining
    at their herniated stitches.
    The bones of my face are a map, I told you
    the plates of my skull fused like petals at my crown
    where the Queen’s infantry anointed me in mortar dust
    and closed their ranks forever.
    I told you the truth:
    before I knew you, I lived for years as a sin eater.
    Beauty was a charm I would never inherit,
    my palate’s cracked seam a cleft between floorboards
    in the attic apartment
    where we lived before the war.
    You never stared at the palimpsest of scrawled transgressions
    that I was sure still etched my body.
    Once you took my hand
    and pressed it to the shallow depression in your skull
    where you told me famine had wracked you while the bones were still soft.
    Trepanned from birth,
    your fontanelles like spy-holed fingers
    never quite closing
    over the keyhole to a locked room.
    As a child, you told me how you used to wake sometimes
    to see a wax museum of saints looming above your bones’ cradle
    the dark haired Virgin standing over you,
    her robes a swimming quilt of fish and birds.
    Their feathers were cursive, crested
    in halved suns;
    she pressed her palm to your chest, once
    and fear died inside you.
    I wonder where the mark of her hand is now
    watching hoarfrost bloom against the panes
    of a shattered city.
    The world turns its black spokes,
    and the wind covers my tracks forever.
    Daylilies wilt and bow their heads,
    blight-palsied stalks
    curling, clawed against my palm.
    The insult of bayonets will erase you
    a limp body left to bear witness
    to history’s bloody unfolding.
    I am a corpse, like the others
    they heap like sandbags
    along the edges of their barricade.
    I am a man who has blinded himself
    painting portraits on eggshell fragments
    with a single-hair brush,
    touching the clothes you left folded in my room
    until their texture no longer recalls your body
    and my hands, too are cast into the insensate dark.
    In my mind
    I called you Lost.
    I called you City of Ur.
    Your eyebrows the dark arches of Fayoum portraits,
    the bones of whales’ ancestors scattered through the floors
    of now-parched Cretaceous seas.
    The stelae of their backbones rise like buzzard-ridden arbors,
    spines whip-stitched, lacing between sun-bleached dunes.
    I want the ululations of a thousand throats
    to guide me across black waters whose shores I’ll never reach
    a ghost of night overpasses
    watching the headlights of transport trucks pass through my body
    before the dark under the train bridge swallows them again.
    I want to open my eyes to see her staring down on me
    from the grotto tattooed on your sunken chest
    frail and impossible, a hothouse flower
    blooming in the nuclear heat.
    I have bled, and seen a river fork through this place.
    I have watched lithograph smoke
    spill from the barrels of silenced guns
    to curl in bows and lariats
    around her heart-shaped face;
    fetal buds pushing through cracked asphalt,
    the bones of plowshares rusting
    in soil too anemic for even the grass to anchor its roots in.
    Somewhere, a revolution is happening
    that will never be broadcast.
    Somewhere, the sun rises on a world
    no longer drawn as if by some hand
    of human pain.
    Other 2012 publications:
    A Chorus of Severed Pipes
    Goblin Fruit, Winter 2012
    Goblin Fruit, Autmn 2012
    Three Poems
    Counterpunch, July 2012

  3. Jenny Blackford
    Their Cold Eyes Pierced my Skin

    Two years ago, my reputation was as clean as yours.
    It wasn’t safe—
    a woman’s name’s not safe until she’s dead,
    sometimes not even then—
    but it was safe enough. The young men of the village
    and their tender peach-like buttocks
    never moved me, nor did the girls,
    however soft their hair or bright their eyes,
    nor the worn-out husks of older folk,
    tired from scrabbling out their lives
    on our unforgiving stony mountainside
    far from Mycenae.

    But the two centaurs who hunted in the valley,
    the year I turned eighteen—
    oh, they were different,
    alive and free.

    Their hair curled down their backs like wild black waterfalls;
    their cold eyes pierced my skin.
    My fingers ached to comb their tails,
    to smooth their strongly-muscled flanks.

    I told no one, of course. Who could I tell?
    My virtuous ever-weaving aunt? No.
    I could not even whisper at my mother’s grave,
    sorrowing her ghost.

    Two years ago, as I have said, my name was clean. These days,
    the gossips in the street need only point
    at the spring grass under the trees,
    and the boy child who frolics there: my son.
    But they don’t know the half of it.

    I succumbed, not to a local man or youth,
    but to the lure of shining hooves
    and glossy hides. Of course, there’s more:
    for any mountain girl who’s ever milked a ewe or two, perhaps a goat,
    has seen the ram or he-goat led to her in spring,
    his huge balls heavy in their leather sack.
    My centaurs were the same: formidable.
    I loved them both, inseparably, as they loved me
    And one another.

    So, for a time, I truly lived.
    My centaurs hunted hare and deer; I tickled fish;
    I learned their summer songs, and danced with them, and drank their wine,
    lolling on soft sweet grass far from my father and his farm—
    but autumn came.
    I saw the two I loved watching the birds make arrows in the sky
    as they flew south;
    soon my horse-men must go,
    wild things that they were.
    They stroked my hair and kissed the rounding mound
    low on my abdomen: our child.
    I cried and sulked, and was a fool.
    They sang me songs of long-ruined palaces,
    of stars fallen to earth,
    of queens who wept gold tears.
    I would not go with them;
    they could not stay.

    My lovers galloped south. I lingered for a month,
    sure they would return for me—their love—
    but I was wrong.

    When winter came, I had no choice.
    I walked the bitter path, stony and steep, back to my father’s house.
    Despite his threats, I would not name the man who took my honor.
    How could I have?

    The priestess shook her head, when in my fear
    I asked what to expect: a foal,
    to turn my father’s world completely upside down? A boy?
    The goddess could not be second-guessed, she said;
    children bring joy and pain.
    I had not hoped for much;
    her own mind has been hazed with sorrow,
    since the night her daughter went to the naiads’ spring,
    and did not return.

    After my longest day and night of pain, my aunt held up my baby boy:
    ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes.
    No curling mane, no swishing tail.
    Life would be easier for him that way, I knew.
    But when I closed my eyes
    and touched his feet,
    I felt not baby flesh but tiny hooves.
    I smiled a secret smile.
    My boy. Our boy.

    I weave and spin, as women must, and look out from the door
    as my son scampers on the grass
    under the oaks.
    Is that a tail flicking in the sun?
    I blink and it’s not there.
    I blink again, and smile to see
    his shining hooves.

    (“Their Cold Eyes Pierced My Skin,” Pedestal Magazine #70, August 2012)

  4. dmlbooks says:

    Dennis M. Lane


    As a child he was supposed to have been my protector, ‘Pops’ I called him.
    To the world outside he was a smiling, kindly man; always the first to offer a helping hand.

    But I knew better…

    Late at night, when mother was at work, he would come to my room.
    Tell me how much he loved me.
    Explain how I could show that I loved him.

    I was just a kid, what could I do?

    After too many of these nights, I went to my mother, stood there trembling…
    Finally, I managed to spit it out, the filth that I’d endured, the horror visited upon me in the dark.

    And she refused to believe.
    With dead eyes, eyes that could not meet mine, and with lying lips, she said that I must be mistaken. That Pops was a good man, and he loved us both.

    Years later, I realised that mother knew; that she too had endured visits in the dead of night.
    But that could not excuse her.
    She knew, and she could have stopped it, but fear, or shame, stopped her.

    And so the visits continued.

    When I was old enough, big enough to wield a knife, I dreamed of cutting off Pops’ head; like that of an ogre in one of my storybooks.
    But, deep down, I knew that the death of my grandfather would not take away the pain, would not end the nightmares.
    I was broken, my soul could not be mended, and so I devised a plan.

    Despised at school, ridiculed for always having my head in a book, I kept my head down.
    I studied and I escaped the town that had been my prison.

    Years passed by; years in which I rarely saw mother, hardly ever saw Pops.
    As colleagues went home for the holidays, there was no smiling family at the fireside for me.
    I stayed in the lab, working, and the pieces came together.

    Until, one day, the test rig disappeared!

    Years of suppressing my tears, of not talking, came to my aid.
    The test rig disappeared, and I didn’t move, didn’t shout in triumph.
    I just smiled to myself, sure that my plan was near to fruition.

    Pops was long dead, mother was in a home, my fallen arches were a testament to a youth long flown.

    But Pops still haunted my dreams, still caused me to wake up crying.
    And he always would.

    A long weekend, the laboratory empty as I assembled the components, parts of a machine that I had conceived decades before.
    The other researchers had no idea what they had been working on, all those years.
    No time for tests, no need for goodbyes, I set the dials, engaged the flywheel, and blinked out of existence.


    The machine brought me here, to a familiar street.
    I stand outside that house, a building that, to me, has always been full of darkness, and I’m surprised by how bright, how new, how clean it looks.

    The comforting feel of the knife, smooth and cool against my flesh, reassures me as I walk up the path.
    Theory talks about the Grandfather Paradox, but I don’t believe it, what can the universe do?
    Strike me down with lightning?
    Propel me back to the lab?
    I have travelled through time, and no theoretical restriction is going to stop me.

    I walk up the path and past the apple tree, strangely small, newly planted by Pops, then I slip down by the side of the house and into the always open back door.

    As I enter the kitchen Pops jumps to his feet.
    I pull out the knife and he stops.

    Unusually for him, he has no words, no slick excuses.
    Words fail me too: not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about what I would say, how I would accuse my abuser; but now, here, there is nothing to say.

    Before he has a chance to move, I strike.
    The blade sinks deep and his face goes slack, the way mother’s face went slack, that day so long ago (ago?)
    When I told her (tell her?)
    What Pops had done.

    The young-faced, smooth-faced, two-faced, abuser, slips silently to the floor; blood pooling around him.

    As his heart flutters and slows, I feel my own heart fading, like the propellers of a plane struggling to bite on air too thin.
    I wonder if, in that far off old people’s home, mother’s heart is also fighting, straining to beat just one last time.

    My blood drenched hand seems to phase out of existence, flesh becoming transparent, while, on the floor, Pops gurgles once more.
    And, as three hearts beat their last, I know that he will not touch my unborn mother, that he will never come to my bed, to break the child that I was.
    And, in that last instant, before all is remade, I… smile.

    Grandfather (Long – 821 Words) was first podcast in the Poetry Planet section of StarShipSofa Episode 229 (Grandfather, http://www.starshipsofa.com, March 2012)

    First printed publication was in my collection “The Poring Dark” (Grandfather, The Poring Dark, September 2012)

    Audio Version: http://dennislanebooks.com/#/grandfather-audio/4564366356

  5. Sandi Leibowitz says:

    Sandi Leibowitz

    (“Crimson-Hooded,” Niteblade, issue 21, September, 2012)


    Approach, approach.
    Not what you expected, eh?

    My, what big ears I have.
    They hear the mice stir under the floorboards,
    the snail’s lurch, the prowl of the five-mile-distant thief,
    your teeth chattering loud as doorknockers.

    My, what big eyes I have.
    They see that you’ve traveled forbidden paths
    and still not learned to judge
    what’s wild and what’s to be trusted.

    My, what big teeth I have.
    That’s for rending wolf-flesh and the meat
    of little girls unready for the red hood’s mysteries.

    Yes, child, it’s me, tucked in my nightie,
    not a wolf disguised as me
    for I am my own disguise.
    Eyes keener, ears larger, teeth sharper
    than when hooded in that shapeless bag,
    that familiar granny pelt.
    Just me, awaiting your curious questions and
    the end of your naïveté, one way or ‘tother.

    The woodsman? Why, down in the cellar, dear,
    what’s left of him, fattening the rats.
    They’ve gnawed him down to gristle,
    use his skeleton for playground.
    Who needs an ax when you’ve got nails
    quicker ‘n scythes?

    Step past the wolf-rug draped across
    my rocker’s lap and creep close.
    My nose twitches at the whiff of your fear,
    your copper-and-cinnamon blood.

    Did you dare knock, little girl?
    Did you dare question?
    Do you dare lean closer?

    Here are my questions:

    Are you ready to earn the crimson hood,
    stitched by your granny
    with thread seeped in her own blood,
    worn by me and my grannies too
    for generations agone?
    What’s that you simper–
    does your mama know?
    She wears it, too.
    Why do you think she sent you to me
    off across the woods
    we two hooded hunters share,
    with such a warning?
    We had to learn if you were only
    obedient pup, fit for the whip
    and the newspaper smack on the snout,
    or wolf enough to sniff your own way.
    In this world there’s only room for bold or bolder,
    and those whose heart’s blood grows colder
    soon find that icy soup slurped down.

    So now I ask,
    do you choose the crimson hood,
    the musky primrose path, dusk’s
    bone-strewn way past grub-munched log
    and leaf-mold under cave-black canopy,
    or remain a pretty posy-picker,
    a goodling meek, a mumbling daddy’s girl?
    Will you be devotee or devourer,
    priestess or prey?

    Ah, that’s a good girl,
    slip the hood back on,
    red as apples and sin-bought roses.
    Crouch at my bed’s feet.
    Don’t beg but snatch, girl, snatch,
    at this treat, this wolf’s heart I offer you.


  6. John Philip Johnson
    “String Theory” (James Gunn’s Ad Astra, 2012)

    Thank you for reading!

  7. Shelly says:

    I’ve posted my poems from 2012 in a post at my blog. Please leave a comment there if you’d like me to email you a PDF version (where the layout will be more accurate)

  8. The Horror at Fox Hollow

    Fur prickled, pulse in a stutter, Kit turns off
    the highway onto country roads. The woods
    gleam between the fields—each gap a soft
    unsettled mood shaped by walls that have stood,
    stone-faced, for hoary decades. From time to time
    she slows to squint at her notes by dash-light. Good
    that she’s alone. Her husband and son would team
    up to tease her for resisting GPS.
    But she won’t get lost: Kit has print. Her beams
    pick out the signs—and a sly possum, and a mess
    of dead doe gnawed by a dim thing that scurries away—
    so she follows her lines to Fox Hollow School for Girls.
    An avenue of trees. Each raises a splay
    of dead fingers where blossoms should be. A guard
    in a bright-lit hut, clean-shirted, a scribble of gray
    combed over his scalp, limps out. “Katherine Rennard,”
    she tells him, “here for the Poetry Festival.”
    He steps back, rings someone, then waves her forward.
    Belated panic thrills her. She could roll
    up her window, hang a quick K-turn, and go.
    A reading for two hundred teens? Too brutal.
    But now she’s trapped. There, under the glow
    of security lights, waits the spunky teacher,
    scarlet with enthusiasm for his not-too-
    famous poet: tomorrow’s special feature.
    Tonight, just listening. She’s come mid-event,
    the Student Slam, and ducks into the bleachers.
    No one heeds her; their whispery heads are bent
    together, in rows, at tables, in the furtive
    poses plotters take when poised to torment
    their sisters. It’s a secret. Don’t want to hurt
    your feelings but. My god what is she wearing.
    Not aimed at Kit but it’s easy to revert—
    sneer down at her own wrinkled self, her timid bearing.
    Still the odd one. Masked. The teacher’s pet.
    It’s not a true slam—no one scruffy or swearing,
    but all are keen, straining the leash. That edge.
    Two half-grown, trembling girls, their meter poor,
    recite a piece together, giggling, and get
    off the stage before they hear the abysmal score.
    Someone still in riding breeches shakes
    her auburn tresses and declaims a more
    successful paean to her horse. She likes
    to wring the cheers from slender throats. The winner,
    toothy, bites off an ode to midnight snacks.
    The scene is gothic. Kit knows this tale of horror:
    a stranger comes to town. Folks seem normal—
    too normal. She suppresses an improper snicker.
    As it ends, a meager fog descends, miasmal.
    Kit’s brought to a vacant guesthouse for the night.
    It’s an ancient pile. The rooms are queer and dismal.
    She nudges the doorstop aside—a crouched thing, not
    quite canine, made of metal—unzips her bag,
    hangs up her reading outfit, finds a note
    from her son, tries to phone. Reception’s bad,
    so the nature-poet draws her blinds against
    the mumbling trees, the silent huddled birds.
    There’s an oval portrait on her wall amidst
    the paper’s tangled ivy: the mug of a fox,
    wary, studying the long-dead artist.
    Kit finally dozes after testing the locks.
    Do the dreams bring on the fear or does the fear
    bring on the dreams? A forest clearing. The clock’s
    insect tick. She and her poetry books premiere
    on a low stage, fixed in the spotlight. She knows
    the risers are stocked with voyeurs. They leer at her
    til dawn, when she rinses off the helplessness
    and hears her host’s horn sound. The handles on
    his car are useless from the inside. “That noise,”
    Kit asks. “Is it dogs?” “The baying of the hounds,”
    he gamely replies. “During these winter weeks
    the girls just love a fox-hunt.” He parks, walks round
    to let her out. “Don’t worry, they’re sated,” he jokes.
    The earth is pocked and fragrant, deeply scored
    by hoof and pad and other illegible tracks.
    The master leads her on a walking tour
    of campus—a moss-veiled dorm, the spiffy gym
    for that twenty-first-century tone—and recounts some lore
    of miscellaneous hauntings. Best, in the grim
    cafeteria, he gestures to a portrait of
    the founder, vigorous and slim,
    a coil of ghostly smoke floating above
    her hand, though the brandy and lit cigarette
    are painted out. Finally, at a remove
    from the other buildings, the venue. And wild regret,
    as always, that she’s agreed to this. Either way,
    whether the reading’s triumphant or painful, Kit
    will feel chagrin. There’s something about a stage
    that alienates a person from herself.
    As if, she thinks as she dog-ears some pages,
    half-attending to the introductory riff,
    I’m not just the fox but the pack of hounds, too.
    And it’s time for the beasts to be cast into the rough.
    She wonders what she’ll see from the lectern—a few
    well-mounted, vicarious hunters, checking her over?
    Or slavering fangs? By instinct, she leaps at her cue.

    —Here the fragment ends; the contriver
    of the ominous verses left them unfinished, unsigned.
    I return the scrap of foolscap to its clever
    covert: a frayed edition left behind
    by some other traveler. In the middle
    of a journey, lost in a wood, the Fox Hollow kind.
    Lovecraft would find “a hideous cult of nocturnal
    worshipers… a revolting fertility-rite.”
    Intense seclusion can make a visitor smell
    like lunch. But then, I can be Kittish. A night
    with no hounds is bad enough. A prep-
    school is always grounds for dread: those bright
    young flames when I’m halfway to ash; their up-
    wardly mobile predation; the descent
    into girl-world. Where my courage slips
    and I surrender, though, is in the event.
    That servile play at status. My will and its teeth.
    And no one real—just ambience and scent.
    Look up at the window and there she is, past death,
    translated, a monstrous shimmer in the pane
    where my reflection should be. Flushed out. Both
    our mouths ajar. And then, her revenant grin:
    no gap now between think and say, want and eat.
    Devoured, she’s whole. And listening for her kin.

    The Receptionist and Other Tales, Aqueduct Press Conversation Series, 2012
    Also eligible:
    Zombie Thanksgiving

    Full text at http://www.fringemagazine.org/lit/longer-poetry/zombie-thanksgiving/
    Fringe 29 (Winter 2012, online magazine)

    The Receptionist

    Pages 1-67 of The Receptionist and Other Tales, Aqueduct Press Conversation Series, 2012

  9. Mary Turzillo
    “Tohoku Tsunami
    by Mary Turzillo

    Taro finds a sea turtle
    belly-up, helpless, tormented by thugs:
    he rights it, cradles, gives it back to the sea.

    Another sea turtle, immense,
    as from woodcuts of monsters devouring Kyoto,
    walks out of the tide, finds Taro

    dumbstruck, afraid.
    But Fisherman Taro, doused with sea-spittle,
    grows gills.

    Come, come with me. The huge turtle
    named Ryujin, sea kami,
    tows him to ocean’s root:

    a palace refulgent
    with kanju, chrysoberyls that make the tide fall.
    and manju, alexandrine plates that make the tide rise.

    The kanju are scales
    the manju also
    are scales.

    The palace is a dragon.
    In its deepest coil, Ryujin presents
    Princess Otohime. My daughter.

    the turtle you returned to the sea.
    Otohime’s beauty sponges away Taro’s recall
    of fishing and Miyagi, his home.

    Taro, Otohime’s consort now,
    lives in a palace. It stirs now and then,
    scales as chrysoprase, corundum, coils serpentine.

    The dragon
    Ryugoju, seabed, origin, center,
    coils jealous around princess and fisher.

    Taro yearns to see his mother.
    Otohime (salt tears) agrees, gives him a box. Do not open.
    He forgets to ask why.

    The dragon
    ready to sleep years, centuries, aeons,
    releases Taro.

    Taro walks inland,
    finds Miyagi’s streets
    buzz with cars, light-blaze, women in brief skirts.

    He asks
    have you heard of Taro, the fisherman?
    Urashima Taro? Yes.

    A legend. Walked into the sea
    to rescue a turtle. Never returned,
    but his footprints on the beach were lined with jewels.

    Taro asks of his mother.
    That was long ago, they say.
    She has been dead three centuries.

    He sinks down.
    All he knew is the dust of burnt offerings;
    he is wayfarer in an arid, metallic land.

    Bereft on a city curb,
    he remembers the box
    It will bring back my world.

    He opens:
    an echoing dragon sea-heart opens.
    The dragon’s jewel-scales flex. First the kanju,

    call the sea back to the dragon
    so the tide sinks,
    and folk wonder has the sea abandoned us?

    The dragon flexes again
    and his belly-scale manju ripple
    and the water rushes inland.

    All is awash, lights put out,
    temples cars people crushed
    as an anthill engulfed

    until finally the vat opens
    where the folk grow electricity,
    irradiating Miyagi

    with billion-jellyfish poison
    and, not having sea turtle shells,
    folk tumble, sicken, and die.

    The sea washes Taro back
    to the palace-dragon,
    which coils, then yawns.

    The princess closes the box.
    But no man
    can live three hundred years.

    Taro ages and fails, blood staining salt water. He dies.
    The princess weeps.
    The dragon, flood-weary, sleeps.

    email me at maryturzillo at earthlink dot net for my Rhysling eligible poems
    or download them here.

  10. Fallen
    By Shannon Connor Winward

    When the children ask
    What became of Father’s eyes?
    we tell them it was the brambles.

    It gets easier with the telling.
    At night, by the hearth, he knits
    caps, blankets, stockings for their little feet

    he weaves tales
    each more elaborate than the last, each
    further from the truth

    his hands are nimble as his tongue
    he used to kiss me, once
    he used to tell me stories, too

    our love, undying
    my beauty, peerless
    his kingdom, gold and sapphires

    What did I know of men, then
    of love, of beauty, of wealth?
    I knew only you, sister

    mother, lover, soft and simple
    poor within our tower walls
    How could I have known?

    I was a child in your arms
    and childhood is blind
    but memory is sharp as thorns.

    I see, at night, while the children sleep
    when I lie with him, backs touching
    only for the warmth

    — he would have left me to die.
    But I sold my hair, that cold, cold spring;
    belly full of bastards, I stole

    unformed radishes to survive
    I slept on the hard earth
    in the shadow of the spire

    I cried my voice raw
    Gothel! I was a fool! I was wrong!
    Damn you and your virgin’s pride.

    Like a fledgling fallen from the nest
    my scent erased by human hands
    I cannot go home again.

    Do you know, he gnashes his teeth?
    On nights of the full moon, he weeps
    and he calls your name.

    How confident he was that night
    in his borrowed finery,
    a fistful of bellflowers

    a mouthful of lies
    how lean and perfect
    striding, climbing, thinking me gone

    thinking I’d leapt from the bluffs, perhaps
    broken from shame
    so arrogant and brutal

    hunting at your window
    thinking you just another woman
    to seduce, to own.

    I can still see
    his face, under the moon
    the stark white of awe

    of rapture, suspended
    at the sight of you
    oh, Gothel

    what I would give
    to behold you again
    to have seen, even

    the horrible glory
    of you, enraged
    a loveliness to outshine

    even the brightest of stars
    my love, my dearest,
    I would rather be blind

    then stumble in this dark night.
    But I watched, still as stone
    as he screamed, as he rent

    in madness, in humility
    his eyes
    as he tumbled from heaven

    back to earth, to my feet
    the shell of a man
    mine to mend.

    Your parting gift to me
    I know this now: you let him live
    two mortals bereft of Eden

    what had we to do but begin again?
    But do you know, Gothel
    he weeps for that last vision

    and I envy him.

    When they ask now, he says
    it was a witch, a monster
    that thrust him from the tower

    and thorns that took his sight.
    He tells us it was
    me he sought for

    that his intentions were pure
    and his injuries the reason
    today we want for bread.

    I do not contradict him.
    Stories are food for the soul
    but this is only dangerous

    if the listener is well fed.
    What did I know of hunger, then
    Sister, Friend, my

    love, my beauty, my wealth?
    It is time that shows us
    we do not see what we possess

    until it is gone.

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