And as she runs, rushing from door
To door, breaking into the Western wing
Of the castle, trying to unlock secret
Doors, she hungers for her beloved,
And for her sisters and their friends –
Nowhere to be found.
She thirsts for a just reason, a fair
Outcome, a comforting truth
To redeem them all.
Silence treads heavily in the castle’s
Meandering halls. The brave princess
At night, her passion and agony begin.
Night in, night out, she may break
Like a brittle vase; instead, she endures.
She dreams of liberation. She dreams of
Till one day, the tyrant leaves around
His forbidden key.
Despair goads her into stealing it, for
Her despair is stronger than her fear.
She still dreams of liberation. She
Still dreams of revenge.
Like many a silly man, the king
Dies a dull, sudden death.
As soon as the old soldier is king,
He throws the eleven princesses
And their princes in jail. Each flung
To the most remote corners of his kingdom.
He has the bride-to-be dressed in
A stifling corset, buried in layers of
Brocade and velvet. Her hair tied up
Behind her neck,
Her movements constrained
By tiny glass slippers. Her eyes,
Swollen with crying, covered with
A white veil.
For all she feels, it may well be
As black as death.
Her prince is nowhere to be found.
In vain, she scans the crowds on
Her wedding day.
Soon, the king proclaims the soldier
To be his heir. He hands him the key
To the princesses’ room and bid him
Choose the one to his liking.
The old soldier’s pride is satisfied:
He sees the look of shame on the bashful
Cheeks of all the princesses…but one.
The eldest looks straight into his eye,
Throws back her neck, pouting.
That I shall have – he cries.
Picture by Alise Alinari via pexels.com
All good things come to a stop.
Dawn breaks the magic of the night.
Princesses and princes – hot and ruffled –
Rush to their boats; away, to the other shore.
Back in their room, their hearts still
Pounding in delight, the princesses
Believe their secret to be safe.
But the soldier runs to the king.
For three nights he followed the princesses.
He snapped a silver twig on the first night,
And took a golden leaf and a diamond apple
On the second. On the third, he snatched
A gold cup from the castle of enchanted
There you have it – your princesses
Dance all night long. Twelve princes
Attend to their pleasure in the enchanted
Castle beyond the dark lake.