And just when all seems lost, the key
Clicks in the lock and opens the forbidden door.
All the darkness and stench of the world
Jump at her and suck her inside.
Her feline eyes see in the dark.
There’s an unsealed coffin on some planks.
The lid has been removed.
She trembles and stumbles in the dark,
And when she is near enough, she covers
Her mouth and opens her eyes wide in a wild,
Piercing, soundless cry.
Her prince is lying there.
As handsome as ever; yet no longer
Dancing and laughing. She covers his smooth
Brow with everlasting kisses. His full lips
Are pressed into a sad line.
He, the prince of all the dances, frozen
Into the baffling stillness of death.
He himself dreams of his cruel lot
In a stupor of disbelief.
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