Size / / /

1. Before

The paths that lead to the ball are many:
they are often lined with the forgotten ashes of scullery maids
who have gone on to better things than picking lentils out of the hearth.
While wanting a ball is not wanting a prince
the two seem to go hand in hand,
a kind of logarithmic function of desire and fulfillment.
And so, scullery maid or princess,
we, each and every one, arrive at the ball
bedecked in feathers and fury.

2. Masque

We are given only two hands to use in the dance,
one always caught in the clutch of another,
and the second hand ticking
gently in front of the eyes:
spread fingers creating spyholes of flesh.
Had the fairy godmother thought to give the gift
of a third hand, instead of, say,
shoes never worn enough to be worth the price,
think how different the story might have been.

3. Midnight

Herr Drosselmeier, godfather,
maker of time-pieces
and other ticky-toys,
we stand and bow to you.
You always knew,
in the way that godfathers know such things,
that the Prince is always the hardest nut to crack,
no matter how many hands are given to the task.
As for you, Carabosse,
keeper of clocks,
when did you leave us
to this solitary pirouette on the head of a spindle,
a waltz of one hundred years,
feet twitching like Father's eldest hunting hound,
fingers burning into straw, into gold:
we were the gifts given,
gaily wrapped packages in reversible paper
readied for this one or that one.
(You always said
twelve strokes weren't really enough
but what prince ever believed that?)

4. Ever After

Beyond the glass coffin
beyond the glass hill
beyond the glass slipper:
only you and I,
a shadowy duet of parsimony and elegance.
How the creeping sundial does sweep us!
despite raggedy clothes, shoe-loss
and devious step-parents,
into the arms
of a tidy, anticipated future.
And there we dance, covered
in feathers and furbelows, bells and bobbles,
our hands given, as foreordained
to an endless parade
of velvet knickerbockered golden-crowned youths,
the unfolding of an infinite paper princeling chain.

5. The End

Time is the mother of invention
and the sister of theft.
It is the glass globe of hand-spun conjurings
on the end of the spindle-shaft,
dancing in the shadow of the long hand,
twirling in the lee of the short hand.
Here, each dance has the fractal precision of chaos,
whether prince or prisoner, scullery maid or princess,
each part contains the pattern of the whole:
wish and desire
and eventually
(if you wish)
(if you desire)
(if you dare)
even love.


Copyright © 1999 Sandra Kasturi

Reader Comments

Sandra Kasturi's poetry has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, most recently in Anamnesis Press's 2001: A Science Fiction Poetry Anthology. She is a co-founder of the infamous Algonquin Square Table Poetry Workshop and has received four Honorable Mentions in The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies. She has won a Bram Stoker Award for her editorial work at ChiZine and recently founded Kelp Queen Press with inaugural publications from Colleen Anderson, David Niall Wilson and Jason Taniguchi.

Bio to come.
Current Issue
17 Jan 2022

The land burns so hot and high tonight that Let can see its orange glow even from the heart of The City of Birds. It burns so thick she can taste the whole year’s growth of leaves and branches on her lips. It burns so fast she can almost hear the deer and cottontails scream as flames outrun them and devour them whole.
I writhe in bed with fever, chills, chatters and shivers. The near becomes far as the far comes close.
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