Happily Never After Fairytale poems by Aileen Sheedy
Happily Never After
Happily Never After Aileen Sheedy
To my first love: We were a fairytale, werenâ€™t we?
Contents Preface Girl Before a Mirror 2 (Snow White) Cobblestones and Glass Stilettos (Cinderella)
Wanderer 6 (Sleeping Beauty) Vices 8 (The Twelve Dancing Princesses) Seaside 10 (The Little Mermaid) Amphibious 12 (The Frog Prince) Delicacy 14 (The Princess and the Pea) Love Like a Rose 16 (Beauty and the Beast) Again 17 After 18 (Rapunzel)
Preface “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 first poem, “Girl Before a Mirror,” explores the German fairytale of Snow White and the princess’s relationship with herself. As she looks in the mirror, she reflects upon her appearance and the troubled relationship with her stepmother that her beauty has created. The comparison of breasts to “rotten brown apples” pulls in imagery from the original story while also revealing the character’s negative view of herself. 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 rotten brown apples 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
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 dream of 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-off tower. It takes many years to burn all the spindles in a kingdom so great— there are always those who cling. Fifteen years I watched them burn. You could not hide it from me, just like you could not keep me safe. 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 6
Vices Sometimes I have nightmares About the men who lost their heads So I could have a bit of fun In my hedonistic pleasure-nights They claw at me with desperate hands Begging me for my secrets The secrets that can save their lives But I am arrogant As I always was They rise up in anger through the trapdoor As they did not do in reality A tidal wave of headless princes With worn-out dancing shoes in hand “This!” they cry “We died for this!” And yet of all the twelve I am the only one with haunted eyes And it brings me to despise my sisters So unburdened by the past They forced upon me Once upon a time Oh, once upon a time In a land not-so-far-away There lived a sinful princess Who only loved to play But her dreams were filled with murdered men Who screamed, Please stop your games! She suffered silent four long years Then lit her tower up in flames 8
Seaside The texture of the sea—chill and heat, gentle 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—stone-cold, grainy, mushes between the toes that I still cannot get used to, and I curl these replacements for fins and scales, digging through the hard-packed sand to the sludge 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 failed last defense. The only soft moments 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. It pains me more than dancing knives, the way that rocks have now betrayed me. The salt clings to my skin, leaving patchy 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 piece of land-life that reminds me of home and the way currents once ran through seaweed. This sea is not mine, this abovelookingdown. A prince was not worth the disparity between what I know and what I see. But this wind, oh this wind! This wind was worth it all.
Amphibious Your selfish tears Put mine to shame Oh, weeping weeping girl For spiteful fairies Golden balls Have made us long for something more I will fetch your wond’rous sun And sing your hymns of haughty praise Appease your vain attempts at pride And search the depths for what you’ve lost But in return I want your home Upon your cushioned throne I’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 So like a roll of tissue-thin paper He throws her out in the storm And watches her melt into despair
Love Like a Rose My love is like a red, red rose Well, that’s all bullshit, isn’t it? My love is like a dying rose Dying, drying, falling, failing With spotted petals drifting from the withered hip Velvet soft wrinkles turn to paper-thin crinkles And sweet seduction’s scent becomes bitter-sour We had our beauty, our brilliance Our moment in the summer sun And now aphids have come 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 turns grey and brittle The only strength in dying comes to thorns Once as delicate as the petals If you knew how to touch them right Points bending with a breath Breaking off with the push of a thumb Now they cling proudly to the twigs that were stems Becoming hard, tough, untouchable A simple annoyance grown into a painful prick
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 And towns Alone as the sun himself Scorching 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 Shame of shames to royal pride 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?