Happily Never After Fairytale poems by Aileen Sheedy
Happily Never After
Happily Never After Aileen Sheedy Lacernata Press
To my first love: We were a fairytale, werenâ€™t we?
Contents Preface Girl Before a Mirror (Snow White) Cobblestones and Glass Stilettos (Cinderella) Wanderer (Sleeping Beauty) Sinful (The Twelve Dancing Princesses) Seaside (The Little Mermaid) Amphibious (The Frog Prince) Delicacy (The Princess and the Pea) Endangered Rose (Beauty and the Beast) Again After (Rapunzel)
Preface The chapbook “Happily Never After” comprises a series of poems inspired by traditional fairy tales. More than simply re-telling well-known stories, however, these poems focus on the many kinds of relationships, as well as the deceptive nature of romance. The goal of this book is to portray relationships realistically, rather than with the perfect, dream-like quality that most fairytales paint them in. Within the sequence, the poems are structured to reflect the progression of relationships with the self, with family (especially siblings and parents), and with a love interest. The last two poems, “Again” and “After,” are based on the story of Rapunzel but they are told through the eyes of the prince. They emphasize the realism of relationships by revealing the neverending cycle of self-hatred that accompanies loving someone who has hurt you. With a focus on the character’s voice and rhythm of words and speech, anger and frustration are portrayed with an emotional slant, rather than the traditional apathetic neutrality of fairytale narratives. The final line of the second poem asks, “Will this never end?” This relates to the title of the book and the overall secondary theme of endings. Many fairytales end with the phrase, “and they lived happily ever after,” which most people would agree is a rather optimistic and naive concept. The title “Happily Never After” is a play on words that takes the reader’s idealistic expectations and twists them into something cynical and practical. True endings are rare, and those that exist are rarely ever happy.
Girl Before a Mirror I. Do you see what I see? II. Inverted colors Skewed perspective Nonsensical lines Misplaced stripes Medallion of truth III. Stretch marks Bulbous stomach Breasts like oranges Misshapen hands IV. Matted hair Half-moon face Devil’s eyes Bloodstained tears V. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry Repetition doesn’t make it real Any more than vibrant colors do VI. Why does my reflection show Who I am inside?
Cobblestones and Glass Stilettos Whistlewind rushing away through tangled hair and tatters as pumpkins and mice disintegrate to dust around the deepest, deepest of dropped clock-strokes. Singsong and rhyme and rhythm and time— what are we writing for, really? I panicked when you wrote you had read what I wrote, for I wrote without writing for you. I never tiptoed anywhere like I did around my mother’s cobblestones, and my bones ache for the days when tiptoeing was all I needed to do to combat stinging skin and a broken arch. When we walked on broken crystals, I flaunted glass stilettos and my feet began to bleed before the dancing was over— but oh, prince, what will you do if your princess turns out to be a bitch? Will you marry her anyway and hope for a happily ever after to put all others to shame? The best marriages are the ones you have to work at, you know, or so my mother once told me after my father called her a cunt. I’m inclined to take her advice because, as you can see by her carriage and her kids, she is a happy, successful woman— and I’ll be damned if I can’t at least be as happy as my mother by the time I die.
Wanderer I remember spindles burning, piles like kindling greeting the sky in flames and smoke. Children scream and women cry; men watch stolidly from stable doors while I watch them from my far-away tower. You could not hide it from me, just like you couldn’t keep me safe. It takes many years to burn all the spindles in a kingdom this large— there are always those who cling and hide. Fifteen years I watched them burn. In the dusty corners of my sleeping mind I pace restless in the comfort of a damp intrusive fog Where a dreamer’s life lies ahead The terrain grows rough and pebbles bruise my toes As I search through forgotten maybes and I’m sorrys In the dusty corners of my sleeping mind But, oh, to find that bud beneath the dirt That straggling path through mountains of grey Where a dreamer’s life lies ahead And so I stay, pouring out wrong turns and dead ends Waiting for one to catch and stick in this fine-meshed sieve In the dusty corners of my sleeping mind Where a dreamer’s life lies ahead
Sinful [poem coming soon]
Seaside The texture of the sea—cold and hot, soft and harsh at the same time as the waves crash over my bare legs, the droplets trickling down my skin like ants as the water pulls away. Sand—cold, grainy, mushes between my toes that I still cannot get used to, and I curl them, digging through the hard-packed sand to the gloop underneath where water pools and the sides of the holes slide inwards and collapse on themselves. Sharp broken clamshells scrape my water-delicate skin, crab remains even sharper and hard, hard as the crustacean’s last defense that clearly failed him this time. The only soft are the downy seagull feathers that litter the ground, blowing gently, stuck, trying to escape like they know they don’t belong to this rough touch landscape. Closer to the water, round pebbles break my new feet—I have never felt this before, the pain they cause. It hurts more than the knives of dance. The salt clings to my skin, leaving trails of white. I do not understand toenails, how they collect remnants of the sea that I am obliged to clean in the bathtub. The wind blows my hair—the only thing on land that reminds me of home and the way currents once ran through seaweed. This sea is not mine, this above looking down. But this wind, oh this wind! The prince was worth this wind.
Amphibious Your selfish tears Put mine to shame Oh, weeping weeping girl For spiteful fairies Magic balls Have made us long for something more I will fetch your golden sun And sing your hymns of haughty praise Appease your vain attempts at pride And search the depths for what youâ€™ve lost But in return I want your home Upon your cushioned throne Iâ€™ll lay If you thrice lift me from my spring And place me by your side tonight I never loved you, weeping girl I hope you never loved me too
Delicacy A real princess worthy of bearing A real heir to his throne He gets what he wants As he always does Only to discover too late that A real princess Flinches, bruising from his lightest touch Curls away from his stabbing toenails in the middle of the night Cries at even a gentle lovemaking This rainswept princess will not do She will not do at all
Endangered Rose My love for you is like a red, red rose Well, thatâ€™s all bullshit, isnâ€™t it? My love for you is like a dying rose With spotted petals falling from the withered hip Drying, dying, failing, falling We had our beauty, our brilliance, our moment in the summer sun But now the aphids have come and chewed holes through our thornless leaves And we desperately pour water to save ourselves just one more day As scarlet fades to dusty brown And green stems turn grey and brittle
Again The first time he climbs her hair Curiosity The second time Enchantment The third Compassion Then Hope Trust Love Lust ... .. . And so on and so forth But eventually Silk turns to hay beneath his fingers Catching and ripping Callused and bleeding skin Yet upward and onward he strives Seeking pain but unable to stop Forced to yearn Drawn to return She is a witch, her beauty her spell Her mother has clearly taught her well Soon, he slips (Stones mocking his fall) Betrayed and confused Blinded, alone Cursed and calling her name And hating all the while He still only sees her smile
After Hating all the while He still only sees her smile He wanders forests and mountains and deserts Alone as the sun himself Burning all those who try to soothe his molten heart Prince becomes beggar Not only in name But in face And in walk And in talk And in dress And in the way he doesn’t own a single damn thing Because she took it all from him Not even his loyal steed will love him now When she finds him again, he is still wandering blind But there is no question of who now touches his hand Cast her away Curse her name I wish I want I won’t I can’t Will this never end?
Published on May 4, 2012