Saturday, March 17, 2012

Faerie Tales

 Faerie Tales



Once upon a time
a nightingale
pressed her breast upon a thorn
trilled her last liquid song
to stain for a fool
one perfect rose red.

Once upon a time
a mermaid renounced her tail
trading eternity for
sea foam so her faithless
love could sleep
in his new wife's arms.

Once upon a time
a princess with bleeding hands 
sewed for seven years
seven shirts of stinging nettles  
to break a spell of swans
but seamed a curse

and once two spirits blent
under knotted boughs
buoyed by infinite air, flower eyes
green barked limbs entangled,
and someone said, Hold tight
there is no bottom.

But that was long ago
and most days
no one remembers
how it ends.





March 2012

Posted for   Poetics   at dVerse Poets Pub
Claudia hosts this weekend, and her theme is fairy tales.




First stanza note: The Nightingale and the Rose, By Oscar Wilde
Second stanza note: The Little Mermaid, by Hans Christian Andersen
Third stanza note: The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen. I had remembered the story this way: A princess has seven brothers who were turned into swans by a wicked witch, and to return them to human form she had to weave seven shirts of magical stinging nettles in seven years--she had finished six, and all but one sleeve of the last shirt when the time was up, so her last and favorite brother was left with the wing of a swan, and died. But the actual story summarized here at wikipedia is a bit different, and does have a happy ending, though considerably more trials en route for the princess.



Image: Gorgonzola Flew Off On Her Dragon, illustration  by H.J. Ford
 from Heart of Ice, in  Andrew Lang's The Green Fairy Book, 1892, publlc domain
republished 1965 by Dover Press, my collection.

38 comments:

  1. You've gathered some of my favorite vignettes into your piece. Tell me when you find one where the princess kicks the prince's ass, solves all the riddles and rules all on her own to everyone's delight.

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  2. I can't imagine this being more perfect.

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  3. This is great, Joy. I especially like the first stanza and I love the ending.

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  4. dang...very nice...yes those tales, happily ever after is easily forgotten in this day and age....love the little snippets of many a tale the sacrifices made and the toils toiled...that third one is vaguely familiar as well...tight hedge...

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  5. "trilled her last liquid song" ... love this!

    Ouch; this is a terrible tradeoff:
    "a mermaid renounced her tail
    trading eternity for
    sea foam so her faithless
    love could sleep
    in his new wife's arms"

    Love: "flower eyes
    green barked limbs entangled"

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  6. What a fantastic weaving of magical myths! I loved this, "sewed for seven years
    seven shirts of stinging nettles"

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  7. There is so much to like in this concoction of yours.
    As a weaver, I would recommend weaving first and then dyeing with the nettles, easier on the fingers :-)


    ==
    for a fool
    like in "fool's gold"?
    ==
    trading eternity for
    sea foam
    ==
    seamed a curse
    ==
    blent
    form blend I suppose
    ===
    Really lovely.

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  8. I love your faerie tales - you lines are liquid poetry.

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  9. love all the images hedge...the princess sewing nettle shirts with bleeding hands, the trading eternity for sea foam ...but somehow strange what i liked most was the.. Hold tight
    there is no bottom ...and then that great closure...

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  10. "Once upon a time" invites conclusions, though now they're never happy, a magic of fairie dissed by the way things go in the realtime of a grownup heart. Tom Sawyer is comforted to know that Huck is still out there, somewhere in the Territories; I'm take similar pleasure to know the two blithe spirits mixed it up in the greenwood and are still going at it, none of us knowing if there's ever a bottom in a dowsing kiss that stays away from adulterated fairy tales. - Brendan

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    1. Ought to be a Tarot card in there somewhere, too, don't you feel--the Hanged Lovers, all decked out like the Green Man?

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  11. You third story is called The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen - he could tell a tale to find itself encoded on the collective consciousness.

    I like the contrast between the well-known stories, and the unfamiliar one you evoke at the end. It reminds me that story-telling will never end.

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    1. The Wild Swans! Yes! Thanks Kerry--I remember reading it when I was about twelve--HCA could curdle my blood like Stephen King back then, too.

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  12. And fall they still for want of good deeds in the world that make pits into feather beds...

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  13. Dammit, woman! To pick up the thread from my comment on "Far", I apparently wheeled myself back to the computer at the empty nurses' station, and, upon reading this one, tore out all of my hair and sat there going "eeee! eeee!" until the doctor arrived and declared no treatment possible. It will be months before I will even make it to the cafeteria again without a straight jacket.

    Each stanza is strong enough to stand alone, and yet, taken together, they are a wrecking ball. A wrecking ball deceptively clothed in children's Easter garb. The bird in the first one breaks my heart, because she pierces *herself*, and isn't that what we really do?

    The mermaid stanza takes this further, with our maid trading the defining part of her very self, to make a frothy gift for a faithless lover. I hope that no one is going to bore me at this point by wondering why all mermaids are women.

    The princess, while shocking Babs St. Argent into rare speechlessness by doing manual labor, ratchets up the emotional burn, with her bleeding hands doing the devil's work. I love love love the "spell of swans", which I always think make better symbols of a particular type of pretty evil, than they do of true beauty.

    Then you just go off into Witch Land, rendering my feeble meds useless. The flower eyes, the green barked limbs, I can see all of it; the thorny, hopeful, reaching, doomed dance of love.

    Here is the bill for my extended care, after having been lobotomized by your two most recent poems. I think you really should take responsibility for at least half of it!

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    1. That first stanza--I actually re-read the Wilde story before writing this--you'd like it if you haven't read it before, it's devastating and very Fireblossomy in its anti-intuitive set-up and language. Thanks so much for this very flattering(and hilarious) comment, Shay. Please forward your medical bills to Mitt Romney--he may be able to afford them, or at least know someone who owns a hospital or two.

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  14. I remember reading this before Hedge, but this give me much pleasure to savor the words again. Some fairy tales don't have happy endings but I think for most of us, it really depends on how you want it to end~

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    1. This is a new poem written yesterday, heaven, but perhaps you mean you remember the fairy tales I borrowed. Thanks for reading.

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  15. I really enjoyed the encapsulation of fairy tales in single stanzas, making them yours but adding distance between you and them at the same time. That is very effective, as it brings us closer to you who has gained a perspective on reality from what the fairytales have taught you. From that perspective, your sadness becomes that much more raw and the disappointment with reality has more impact. The edning is devastating, given its juxtaposition to what the fairytales promised and the way the everyday engulphs even their magic in forgetfulness and blind necessaity.

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  16. I knew you would do this prompt such justice... This is wonderful.
    Oh the things we do for love... and the pain of sacrifice.

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  17. Hi Joy--such great stories you've picked--I remember them as I read but didn't think of them yesterday (drat!)

    I saw a wonderful ballet based on the Wilde story once--

    But in terms of the poem--I almost wonder whether you need the last stanza. It's good (as everything you do it), and ironic, etc., but there's something kind of haunting about ending with hold tight there is no bottom. K.

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    1. But that would give it a somewhat different meaning, and also leave a lack of resolution--of relating all three--though of course I suppose that could be left to the reader.I actually was going for a little anti-climax there. Again, this was a quick write so it may get revisited at some point. Thanks for reading,K. and for your perspective--always appreciated.

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    2. I don't know why I would have suggested that you end with the hold tight it has no bottom--that would also be a good ending, but I like the ending.

      I am realizing that these are probably old posts of Dani's--she may have different name now, but it's fun to see these older poems. You were just as good then! k.

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  18. Amazing Hedge. The imagery in here is as if it could have been plucked from the coolest fairy stories ever penned. Love how you wove these pieces together and in such created something new and wonderful. Again, really awesome job here. Thanks

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  19. Amazing tales and I enjoyed your notes after as well, especially the seven men turned into swans.......AND I quite enjoyed Fireblossom's rant as well. Hee hee. You go, girl:)I love going back and forth from her poetry to yours. It is like watching two hombres squaring off in an old western movie...........

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  20. Loved this melding of some classic fairytales. As a child, the nightingale always made me feel so sad. The last stanza of this poem made me feel equally sad- because these fairytales are actual translations of human sacrifice, challenge, and emotion- but you are quite right - we end to forget about these- both literally, and metaphorically, when we think about how modernity has, in some respects, isolated us, madens more insular, and as a result- less in touch with humanity. Loved this hedge!

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  21. i feel most sorry for the princess sewing and bleeding. what did that do to the fabric?

    once upon a polar bear

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  22. Beautifully done. A literal work of art, in my humble opinion.

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  23. Can I agree with, Marbles? Well, I do, Hedge. Pure ART! Thank you!

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  24. Oh you are SO GOOD! So very very very good...!! Wow And you are right, witches ALWAYS have a catch! :-)

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  25. Beautiful. I don't know any of these tales so I am presuming they are all your own creations...wonderful!

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    1. The credits for the tales are in the notes. Oscar Wilde wrote the Nightingale and the Thorn, and Hans Christian Anderson the Little Mermaid and the Wild Swans.

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  26. i have really looked forward to your response to this prompt and you did not disappoint! {not that you EVER do!}

    i spent quite a while last night reading the wikipedia "articles" of about a dozen fairy tales {so that i could be sure my girls would be leveling the correct insults at one another} but none were sadder than your first three verses nor did they contain any worse betrayals and not one came close to the beauty of your fourth verse.

    i do not have the words {really, i don't think they exist} to adequately describe your poetry ~ beautiful, magical, stunning, exquisite ~ all seem to fall light years short of what i mean. no one writes like you do! {though we wish we could.}

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  27. A rush of beauty here, with a start and a stop, a bitter and sweet heartbreak, that never ends. Gorgeous work.

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  28. Beautiful and bewitching as every faery tale should be.

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg