Size / / /

When the children ask

What became of Father's eyes?

we tell them it was the brambles.

It gets easier with the telling.

At night, by the hearth, he knits

caps, blankets, stockings for their little feet

he weaves tales

each more elaborate than the last, each

further from the truth

his hands are nimble as his tongue

he used to kiss me, once

he used to tell me stories, too

our love, undying

my beauty, peerless

his kingdom, gold and sapphires

What did I know of men, then

of love, of beauty, of wealth?

I knew only you, sister

mother, lover, soft and simple

poor within our tower walls

How could I have known?

I was a child in your arms

and childhood is blind

but memory is sharp as thorns.

I see, at night, while the children sleep

when I lie with him, backs touching

only for the warmth

— he would have left me to die.

But I sold my hair, that cold, cold spring;

belly full of bastards, I stole

unformed radishes to survive

I slept on the hard earth

in the shadow of the spire

I cried my voice raw

Gothel! I was a fool! I was wrong!

Damn you and your virgin's pride.

Like a fledgling fallen from the nest

my scent erased by human hands

I cannot go home again.

Do you know, he gnashes his teeth?

On nights of the full moon, he weeps

and he calls your name.

How confident he was that night

in his borrowed finery,

a fistful of bellflowers

a mouthful of lies

how lean and perfect

striding, climbing, thinking me gone

thinking I'd leapt from the bluffs, perhaps

broken from shame

so arrogant and brutal

hunting at your window

thinking you just another woman

to seduce, to own.

I can still see

his face, under the moon

the stark white of awe

of rapture, suspended

at the sight of you

oh, Gothel

what I would give

to behold you again

to have seen, even

the horrible glory

of you, enraged

a loveliness to outshine

even the brightest of stars

my love, my dearest,

I would rather be blind

then stumble in this dark night.

But I watched, still as stone

as he screamed, as he rent

in madness, in humility

his eyes

as he tumbled from heaven

back to earth, to my feet

the shell of a man

mine to mend.

Your parting gift to me

I know this now: you let him live

two mortals bereft of Eden

what had we to do but begin again?

But do you know, Gothel

he weeps for that last vision

and I envy him.

When they ask now, he says

it was a witch, a monster

that thrust him from the tower

and thorns that took his sight.

He tells us it was

me he sought for

that his intentions were pure

and his injuries the reason

today we want for bread.

I do not contradict him.

Stories are food for the soul

but this is only dangerous

if the listener is well fed.

What did I know of hunger, then

Sister, Friend, my

love, my beauty, my wealth?

It is time that shows us

we do not see what we possess

until it is gone.




Shannon Connor Winward's writing has appeared in many venues including: Pedestal Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, Jack-o'-Spec: Tales of Halloween and Fantasy (Raven Elektrik Ink) and Twisted Fairy Tales: Volume Two (Wicked East Press). To read her accounts of writing, witchery, mommyhood, and general sassiness, stop by her blog at http://ladytairngire.livejournal.com.
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25 May 2020

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