All Cooped Up

The noisy hens in the chicken coop
squawked and squabbled among themselves
as they fought over each feed scoop
and squatted in among the egg-laying shelves.

Big Betty crowed for silence among the flock,
telling them they were all wrong
as they bocked their pseudointellectual talk
concerning what made a good morning song.

“The rooster must be strong,” she said,
“and have a lovely coxcomb crest.
He must be quick to peck a rival’s head
and puff out his macho chest.”

But Large Marge wholly disagreed.
“No! He must be calm and quiet and abiding,
not crowing incessantly, like a toxic breed
of arrogant fowl in need of chiding.”

“You should take what you can get,”
Big Betty said, “you uppity little hen.
If he is strong and proud, you can best bet
I won’t think twice about favoring him then.”

“I will never want a Chanticleer,”
Marge retorted, “or any such puffed-up male
not clipped and fixed. With care,
of course,” she added, pruning her tail.

“If you want strong chicks you certainly will,”
Betty argued, adjusting her butt upon her nest.
Marge ruffled her feathers, as if given a chill,
and then squawked loudly, puffing up her own chest.

“A true hen is not valued by her eggs!”
she proclaimed, “And is not a slave to any rooster!
She decides for her wings, breasts and legs!”
Beneath her, the worms began to stir.

“If we can rid ourselves of each strutting cock,”
she cried, “then we will finally be free!
Roosters are the enemy! Bock, bock!
They keep us locked in this coop! Can you not see?”

“We choose to stay here!” Big Betty squawked,
“and so do you, otherwise you’d already be gone!”
She gave Marge a shrewd look, head cocked.
“Listen to you, carrying on and on!”

“I’m fighting the good fight,” Marge replied.
“For everyone here, including you!”
Betty laughed. “So glad you’re on my side.”
She then let drop a wet glob of poo.

“Mock all you want, my oppressed sister!”
Marge sneered, her beak chopping air,
“but my hard work against what is sinister
will help you, too, so be grateful or beware!”

“Hard work?!” Big Betty said with a scoff.
“What ‘hard work’? Bocking us to death?
You’re still here like the rest of us, so take off—
all you’re doing is wasting your breath.”

“Not until my work is done,” Marge said,
“and all hens are free from tyranny most fowl.”
It was then that the lazy Rooster raised his head
and blinked, looking around with a scowl.

“Why haven’t you dusted this place?”
he demanded, raking his talons in the chaff.
“What good are your feathers, cutey face,
if not that?” he remarked with a laugh.

His wall-eyed head rotated about the flock
and alighted on Big Betty and large Marge.
“What is the problem with all this talk?
Bring me food. Don’t forget who’s in charge.”

The hens rushed about, gathering food
and bringing it to their beloved rooster;
all but miffed Marge, who thought it rude
that they should ignore, not rue, her.

The rooster ate well, then laid back down,
and the hens set to sweeping up the coop
while admiring his fight-scarred crown,
watching him with their every rise and stoop.

“What do we need him for?” Marge furiously asked.
“What good is he to any and every hen?
He lounges throughout most of the day, tasked
only in the morning with waking up the Men.

“And then they take our eggs, tell us what to do,
and they all take undue advantage of us.
It is a conspiracy! I know it is true!”
Betty told her not to make such a loud fuss.

She said, “Chanticleer gives us strong chicks
and the Men give us shelter, protection, and feed.
If you don’t like it, then you can go out to the Sticks.
I’m sure you’ll find a flock of geese in need.”

Marge said, bitterly, “I could leave this all behind
and go live in the woods; live all on my own!”
“Be my guest,” Betty said. “If you don’t happen to mind
the wolves stripping you down, feather and bone.”

“I won’t have any chicks!” Marge said loudly.
“I will not let them have the satisfaction of any!”
She then plopped herself down, quite proudly,
and thought of her grievances, many upon many.

“I will teach your chicks how to be truly free,”
she said, nodding in agreement with herself.
“You will not go near my chicks,” said Betty,
settling down again in her nesting shelf.

“If you don’t want chicks, then that is fine;
be barren and childless, for all we care,
but don’t you dare try to teach anything to mine.
If you do, then I will peck at your derriere.”

Another squabble broke out, loud and new,
like a large egg dropped from up on high,
its yolk and whites like the sun, the scattering dew,
cracking upon Chicken Little’s fractured, falling sky.

Meanwhile, up above the coop, and gladly free,
two cranes soared far from the noise, together,
silent, smooth, satisfied, and utterly happy
no matter how bad the oncoming weather.

Southern Gothic

The field spread, wan and wilted, wallowing
like a pale corpse before the front porch,
beneath a gloomy gray sky, swallowing
the sun like a fog-shrouded torch.

The old man sat in his rocking chair,
grinding the planks with a scraping screech
and his wife sat on the steps, hands in hair,
plaiting it as she ignored his speech.

“Don’t go runnin’ ‘round no more,”
he said, the rifle loaded in his lap,
“‘cause I won’t be married to no whore.
I’d rather be a widower than a sorry sap.”

The woman only giggled, and continued braiding
while he upbraided her with his threats—
at her back the house paint was chipped and fading,
the windows cobwebbed with dead insects and regrets.

The second storey window was dark, the kid’s room
empty, ever empty, since they were married—
and in the haunted silence of that gloom
all of the past and future and hope were buried.

With a sigh she said, “Nothing ever grows here.
None of my vegetables and none of my flowers.”
She blinked away a single bitter tear
and sighed again. “Ain’t nothin’ here really ours.”

“I’ve got some good roots here,” he said,
“and they got a taproot to our hearts.”
She scoffed. “But the flowers are all dead,
so who cares about the other parts?”

“You just think you’ll be happy flyin’ free,”
he said, “like a seed on the sinful wind,
or you think someone will pluck you from me—
maybe a rich fool wanting a cozy friend.”

He lifted the cold-barreled rifle in each hand
and felt the reassuring heft of the stock
and, with a curdling frown toward his wedding band,
he aimed it toward her, listening to her talk.

“Your gun don’t work no more,” she said,
“no more than the one between your legs.
Go ahead and shoot me in the head—
your gun ain’t nowhere near big as Greg’s.”

“Woman, you are tempting the Devil,”
he said, his voice as a whetstone on a blade.
She stood up, smirking, ready to revel
in the roughspun hatred they had both made.

Her dress was white as dandelion seeds
and clung to her body loose, a dress
hinting at the yet-youthful curves, and lewd deeds,
of a breeze fluttering higher at that airy access.

“Should have known you were a dead end,”
she said lightly, patting down her skirt—
she was a lithe flower, but she would not bend.
“You’d think after all this time it wouldn’t hurt.”

He smiled sourly and the porch’s light
drew a shadow mask down to his jaw line.
“All I gave you was cleaning vinegar, right?
And all you ever wanted was fancy wine.”

A cow lowed in the distance, a moan
carrying on for a long time, as if to splurge
upon the wide-mouthed vowel, maudlin, lone
as a farewell song, a Southern Gothic dirge.

“Think you can bolt from me?” he growled.
“I got your number, Missy, with this Winchester.”
“All you ever had were guns.” She scowled
and thought of the first time he had undressed her.

He could smell honeysuckle in the air
and it stayed in his mind, for a time,
but he also smelled lavender in her hair
and on her neck, soon to be a kissing crime.

His finger gradually weighed upon the trigger,
the muscles and sinew tightening with death.
“You think you can just leave me for some nigger,
but you ain’t.” The rifle exploded its gunpowder breath.

The world was deafened, silenced, slain,
and her eyes closed to utter void,
yet she did not blossom from her brain
and instead saw a doe, far afield, destroyed.

She watched in horror, and in relief,
as the doe collapsed, rose and fell and rose,
scrambling and moaning in its grief
before bleeding out among the fallow wheat rows.

“Go on, get,” the old man said. “Go to your buck.”
Wide-eyed as a doe, she hurried toward her car
hoping she would start a new life, with a little luck—
but she did not get very far.

He aimed the rifle and fired again,
a grin spreading across his empty-eyed face.
He said, “I wanted you to see how I’d win.
Did you honestly think you’d ever leave this place?”

He watched her crawl, her dainty daisy dress
now a crimson-and-white tie-dye,
and when she stopped moving he said, “God bless”,
lipped his rifle and kissed the world goodbye.

Selene II

As a gift he sang a shepherd’s tune
intent to see her pallor blush,
but it was a song praising gilded noon
and she bid him cease, be still, to hush.
That gossamer goddess with starry eyes
and crowned with the twin-horned crescent moon
resented his love of sunny skies,
yet offered him a godly boon.
She said, “Lay your head here in my arms
and be at peace upon my breast
and you shall know beguiling charms
that will open the most precious chest.”
And so he laid and learned the songs
that would open a woman’s heart,
but her revenge against his petty wrongs
was her love, for he could never depart.

The Little Mermaid

Hans exaggerated when he had written
that she threw herself into the sea
after her beloved prince became smitten
with a more talkative beauty.

She did not, in fact, become a bubbly spirit
nor simply die in the tossing sea foam,
nor go up to heaven, or anywhere near it,
nor beg the sea witch to let her return home.

Rather, she went wandering away from Denmark
and became lost in Germany, and then France.
Homeless, she was found starving in a park
by a kindly woman, who saw her by chance.

The woman happened to be a teacher of ballet
who owned her own school in Paris
and she felt pity for the girl, asking her valet
to stop and invite her to lunch on the terrace.

As the woman watched the girl eat she bethought
that the lithe, pretty thing had a certain essence
which could be transformed, if only trained and taught
to dance; she had a certain stage presence.

While the girl could not talk, she could nod
and so when asked if she would like to live with her
she answered “Yes” and the woman said, “Then, by God,
we will have you dancing hence thither!”

Because her tongue had been cut out to pay
the witch so she could walk on land
she could not talk and gossip and flirt everyday
like the other girls under the old woman’s guiding hand.

Undistracted, she practiced with her human legs
to finely tune their muscles and sinews
until she could dance unfaltering along pointy pegs
only on her toeballs, and without ballerina shoes.

Pain, too, was an apt teacher for her
as the spell’s knives cut her in her swirls
and so her acrobatics were airy, yet surer
than any of the other ballerina girls.

Such a deft foot when she danced!
Each step was cautious of the spell’s sharp bite
so while she spun and leapt and pranced
she did so soft as a falling feather, and just as light.

She could also tip-toe in perfect rhythm
to the most chaotic, jazziest piano tempo
and, while in a group, pirouette in harmony with them,
her arms arced above her head, or akimbo.

In time she unburdened her heavy heart
of that old barnacled anchor that was Love
and excelled at every single dancing art,
so weightless of form she seemed to float up above.

Famous, yet nameless, she was dubbed “Ariel”
for she danced as if upon the very air
and was as powerful as Shakespeare’s fairy thrall
in stirring tempests in hearts everywhere.

For her dance was of the air and of the sea
united between the two, as a swirling hurricane
that comes ashore, a terrifying beauty
whose expression was joy and sorrow and pain.

She danced only once in her prince’s palace,
unrecognized in her ballerina outfit
as her prince peered lazily over his chalice—
his dark eye indifferent about it.

He had grown tired of his new wife, and her prattle,
and “Ariel” smiled to know she escaped a fate so fraught
as being bound to one who viewed people as chattel
and could not care less what his wife thought.

She left his palace with the rest of her troupe
and looked out upon the sea, where diamonds burn,
watching in the shallows an array of fins in a group
that waited for their princess’s return.

The Bridle Bride

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King Roswald was a ruler thought both fine and fair,
ruling with a gentle voice, wise laws, and firm hands.
He had guided his kingdom through turmoil with care
until it had become the happiest realm in the Northlands.

Roswald had three sons, all likewise full of virtue,
and they were good to their widower father and king,
and moreover were dedicated to their people, too,
seeing to their needs in every trifling thing.

But then came a day when Roswald was not himself
and his sons watched him with chagrined dismay
as their father nodded his head, as if to some unseen elf;
his usually keen mind simply drifting away.

Roswald’s eyes were puffy and wreathed in dark rings
as his bearded chin hung low upon his robed chest.
Soon he began to snore, and all three lordlings
became concerned with their father’s want of rest.

“Father,” said his eldest son, after court had ended,
“What is the matter? Are you yet well?”
His father only chuckled. “I am merely winded,”
he said, “but for reasons I cannot tell.”

This was passing strange to his sons
and so they pressed their reticent king,
insisting their father give further reasons
as to why he should believe such a thing.

“Alas, nay,” his father said with a sigh.
“It is not a proper thing to share among others.”
When they insisted again, the king gave reply,
“It is no matter to you, or any others.”

They tried to think no more of it that day,
concluding that it was likely an aberration
and that their father deserved his secrets, anyway,
since he was otherwise forthright when ruling their nation.

But the next morning the king nodded and slumped
upon his throne like a puppet unstrung of strings
or a straw-gutted scarecrow unceremoniously dumped
before the people who awaited his rulings.

They adjourned court early, the king thereafter retiring
to his lonely bedchamber, for much needed sleep.
Meanwhile, his sons met together, concerned and conspiring
to safeguard their father in his fortress keep.

“He needs rest,” the eldest, Ferdinand, said,
and his two younger brothers agreed.
“No one should bother him as he lay abed
or we will have them promptly pilloried.”

So they set guards at every level of the king’s tower—
two to a story, and ten at the bottom floor—
and the brothers themselves stayed up every hour
just outside their father’s bedchamber door.

It was in the witching hours that there stirred
noises from the other side of the door,
echoes abounding wherein there could be heard
high pitched laughter, thunderous hooves, and more.

“Something assails father!” the brothers cried,
pushing upon the door to shove it hence,
but the door was heavy, swinging slowly aside
to reveal a bedchamber fallen to silence.

The bedchamber was empty, the king gone,
and the only clues they had, had been the din
of a horse and a woman whose cackles echoed on
in the brothers’ heads, like an eerie song of sin.

“A witch has taken him!” said Adalbert, the youngest son.
“She used black magic to spirit him to her grotto.
We must rescue him ere she boil him in her cauldron!”
He then said, “Save one, save all!”, the family motto.

Knights were sent forth anon, and also squires,
and all who could look for their abducted king.
Hounds sniffed through woods, fields, and mires,
searching near every standing stone, cave, and fairy ring.

They searched all night and day for their lord,
from sunup to sundown, nary an eye idling
as the whole kingdom feared something untoward
had befallen their most beloved idol king.

But it was the maid, who, tidying the king’s room,
was startled unto fright as she began to sort his bed
and suddenly found a form laying in the evening gloom
with a slanted crown upon his disheveled head.

Her scream rallied the searchers to the tower
for it was a clarion call to wake the very dead,
and so it woke the king, too, who at that late hour
rose with a smile and a yawn and asked to be fed.

“It is not worth so much fuss,” he said lightly
as his sons berated him in a private interview.
“I just so happen to be given to walks, nightly,
and must have escaped notice passing through.”

“We did not see nor hear you open the door once!”
said Adalbert in dismay. “We were awake all night!”
“That is wholly true,” said Ferdinand, whose forbearance
was giving way to his youngest brother’s fright.

The two brothers were distraught by their sire,
but Raginald, the middle son, was more like his mother
and, so, was wise in remembering lessons taught by her
before she had died giving birth to his younger brother.

“Truth,” he said, “is as the chimera in hiding.
To glimpse only one part is to misperceive the sum.”
He then bid his two brothers to the castle’s side wing
and up another tower, overlooking the atrium.

That night the brothers stood upon the tower,
watching the king’s balcony for any malfeasent.
Then, beneath the moon and at nearly the same hour
as yesterday’s abduction, they heard her descent.

It was a witch floating across the air,
laughing wildly as she straddled her broom
with a cackle that froze the blood, her hair
floating all around her in a silver bloom.

To the brothers’ surprise, their father beckoned
as she floated toward him, raising his arms
out to her as if in welcome, which they all reckoned
to be an effect of her spells,and so raised the alarms.

But they were powerless to stop her that night
and she again transformed their beloved father
into a horse, a stallion with a coat so pale white
that it shone like foam upon the tidal water.

She threw over him a bridle and mounted his back,
then took hold of his reins, kicking his flanks.
He neighed and reared and bolted— clackity clackity clack—
across the stone balcony and up the airy banks.

The witch and the king rode across the starlit night,
she laughing and he snorting, moving with such speed
that they soon twinkled, like a star, and passed from sight,
the three brothers feeling at a loss and in great need.

“Steel weapons will not do against a sorceress,”
Ferdinand said. “For they exist like dreaming mists
untouched by blade or arrow, their flesh more or less
invincible with the aid of their magical catalysts.”

So the brothers sought the help of wizards ,
stationing them around their father’s tower.
When the witch came, the wizards wove
into a spell of protection to repel the witch’s power.

The witch was undeterred, passing easily through
their barrier as if it was nought but clear air,
thereupon transforming King Roswald anew
into a stallion which she rode away from there.

Adalbert cried out. “Why torment our father so?!
He is a justly ruler who has done well by everyone!”
Ferdinand shook his head and said, “I do not know,
but we will need stronger aid to defeat this witch, anon.”

They sent a formal message to Midland
upon the midnight wings of their fastest raven,
seeking the help of the Apprentice, Edmund,
who was heir to the powers of the Allmaster, Avon.

Edmund arrived later that day,
opening a portal directly to the castle
and stepping through without pomp or display,
wanting neither hullabaloo or hassle.

Edmund had brown hair hardly fetching
and a rose-embroidered tunic that hung slackly.
He was not impressive, this young man retching
as he stepped through a portal that shimmered blackly.

More surprising than Edmund’s underwhelming presence
was the goblin girl that accompanied him from the South;
green like plant shoots, hair white like plant roots, a nose whence
like a long taproot hung over her sharp-toothed mouth.

The brothers greeted Edmund in hopeful gratitude,
promising riches and glory and so much more,
but he waved away such things with a friendly attitude,
saying aid was reward itself enough in this chore.

“Master Avon has always been proud of your line,”
Edmund said, “and particularly proud of your king.
If it saves this goodly kingdom, then the duty is mine
to save your father.” Forthwith, he began planning.

Edmund was shown to the king, the latter
being yet asleep from a long night of riding.
It seemed to Edmund that this magical matter
was strange for reasons that the king was hiding.

“I sense no magic worked upon him,” Edmund said.
He turned toward Tangleroot, motioning her to his side
to sense what she could from the Northland King in his bed.
The elf grinned. “He seems happy after his wild ride.”

Edmund nodded. “There is more to this than it seems.
And less to it, too. I cannot say the proportion, at this time,
but we will stay here and guard the king as he dreams
and catch this witch when she once again attempts her crime.”

“Some horses like the bit and the bridle,” Tangleroot said,
cackling loudly. Her impudence irritated the youngest son.
Adalbert clenched his fist as his face brightened red.
“If you would mock him, then I would ask you to have done!”

Tangleroot was unconcerned, as all goblins were
when threatened by a human of any standing or rank.
She grinned her sharp-toothed grin in answer,
thorns growing from her green skin; nose to toes, flank to flank.

“That is enough!” Edmund said, interceding in the spat.
“Tangleroot, please behave yourself, abide, surcease,
or a whole kingdom could be thrown to turmoil, and that
is not why we are here. Master Avon entrusted us. Please!”

Tangleroot only laughed harder, hugging her thorny self
while Adalbert’s scowl darkened like a thunderhead
at the impish behavior of the Unseelie elf.
“This is no way to speak of the Northland King,” he said.

Edmund frowned in thought, his brow lined
with confusion. “Why is it that he refused to tell
anyone of his curse?” he asked. Ferdinand opined,
“We thought it perchance an effect of the spell.”

That night Edmund and Tangleroot kept watch together
within the King’s tower, alongside the brothers three,
and it was a silent night, starry and bright, the weather
clear as the witch’s laughter once again rang wild and free.

King Roswald, hitherto reposed in his deep sleep,
suddenly rose from his bed, as if at command by
the Witch’s laugh as she approached his towering keep—
he welcomed her as she descended from the sky.

“Sweet Hepsiba!” the King called. “Beware!”
The Witch was undeterred, waving her hands
and flaring flames in a roaring circle to scare
the band of people trying to stop her commands.

But before the Witch could transform the King,
Edmund wove a spell of binding, encirling her brow
with laced hemlock-and-hawthorn, that red-and-white ring
stopping the flow of the All Ways through her somehow.

“Enough!” Roswald bellowed. “Let her go! Now!”
Dumbstruck though the guards were, they obeyed,
unbinding the witch from her chains and freeing her brow
from the circlet of holly, just as their King bade.

They then hurried away from her, fearing they, too,
would be transformed into animals for a night,
or, worse, cooked in her cauldron as a stew
to be served to her coven beneath the moonlight.

The Witch freed, King Roswald addressed his heirs,
about his relationship with Hepsiba, from the start.
He spoke to them with open and honest fatherly airs
so they knew he was speaking from the heart.

“She helps me forget who I must daily be,
what I must do, for a time,” he said with a sigh,
“helping free me from my shackles of duty
and giving me some respite, ere I die.”

“I have had nothing but power my entire life,” the King said,
“and while I have always borne it as my duty and birthright
I sometimes feel its keen weight upon my wearied head.”
He motioned for the witch and she joined him at his side.

“I met Hepsiba while out on a restive walk,
looking to escape from the discomfort of my throne.
I saw her picking herbs, and, so, I stopped to talk.”
His voice assumed a very light, pleasant tone.

“As it so happened, she was not my subject— not at all!
She was a sorceress who owed no one her loyalty,
and, so, being her own queen, she invited me into her hall
where she treated me as a guest, but not as royalty.”

“But the transformations!” Ferdinand exclaimed.
“Father, you cannot insist that you were not under her spell!”
His father shook his head. “The spell she cast cannot be named—
it is different than love, and lust; it is neither, but just as well.”

“What we do is our own concern,” he continued.
“I do not expect any of you to really understand,
but, in time, Ferdinand, you will when you have been imbued
with the powers, and the shackles, of this land.”

“Since your mother died, I have devoted myself to rule—
rule of the kingdom, of myself, of all that I can see,
and sometimes I have to indulge my inner fool
or die of this weight which I bear incessantly.

“And so my mistress Hepsiba takes my reins
and frees me by taking control as my bridle bride.
Nor does she care for power or other earthly gains,
only taking pleasure, together, in our nightly ride.”

“But father!” exclaimed Raginald, “this is humiliating!
We cannot abide it” His father fixed upon him a knowing stare,
neither dismissive nor sympathetic, for a while waiting
before speaking. “Humiliating to me or to you, my heir?”

“I feel no shame in the pact we have,” he explained.
“If you do, then that is your own problem to amend.
For in all other things I am a dutiful king, and greatly pained,
and ask for little but privacy until my eventual end.”

Tangleroot grinned sharply and nudged Edmund
who, realizing he was not needed in this situation,
opened a portal and left, the brothers still stunned
that their father should continue, despite his station.

As for King Roswald and Hepsibah, the bridle bride,
they carried on until their final days came, hot to trot
in this strange, but satisfying way, each night’s ride
something done without caring of what others thought.

The Threefold Veil

The funeral bell knelled
and threefold widows wailed,
though whether because he’d thrice wed
or woeful for the dead
wherefore none could reward him Hell
for herself, none could tell.
The Will that he willed, thus,
’twas split with much of fuss
for he willed that they each
should live within each other’s reach,
the three in the same home
or not one would but roam.
‘Twas much ado among the three
to which they said, “Fiend, O thee!”
and yanked benighted lace
away from one another’s face,
showing tears, at last, when
flowing belike forever then,
though for beloved spouse
or his wealthy farmhouse
the executor could not say,
disturbed unto dismay.
The widows raked and clawed
and did unto as ’twas outlawed,
scarring miens most meanly
so veils were needed most keenly.
None received house or land,
but naught in either hand
save lace and flesh and blood
which they chewed, like the cud.
The gravediggers later that night
laid the dead man out by moonlight,
but grabbed the box by a lax grip
so it did thereby slip,
tumbling down with a plop
and opening wide with the drop.
There he sprawled, all ‘a grin,
having tricked his wives, once again.

Scorn

The tree’s shadow was a raven’s wing—
ragged, black, and riotously flapping
to the bellowing gales of the coming storm,
the winds cold, yet the season warm.
She waited until the sun had disappeared
behind the dark clouds that rose and reared
like black bears newly awakened from sleep:
angry and clashing, their roars loud and deep.
She went, then, searching for the three witches
as the forest struck her with its hateful switches,
and she came to the storm’s eye, where they dwelled;
a calm circle around which the vortex swelled.
The lightning crackled and the witches cackled,
each to the black cauldron was shackled.
The girl approached them, unhesitating,
while they watched her, silently wry and waiting.
“Did you summon the storm?” the girl asked,
“Or did it summon you?” The witches, each masked,
stirred the steaming, storm-funneled pot,
the broth of which bubbled sullen and hot.
“Take a gander into yourself,” the witches said,
“and know what it is that is in your head.”
The girl stepped toward the cauldron’s fuming funnel,
and dared a glance into that whirling, swirling tunnel.
She saw in the broth Hanna, the foreign maiden
whose beauty she hated, only now her body laden
with a humpback and warts and all of the features
that would ruin the most divine of creatures;
and she saw a prince, handsome and strong,
lifting herself to his saddle, amidst a festive throng,
and he had the face of the man to whom she gave
her virginity, thinking he would thereafter save
her from the mills and the cottage and the peasant life
and take her to his castle to make her his wife.
She saw the villagers who mocked her for a fool,
including her parents, now subject to her rule,
and relished how they kneeled and bowed
as she stood tall above them, beautiful and proud.
She saw, also, herself bedecked with jewels and lace
as her husband held her close and kissed her face.
And lavish banners were raised in her honor
while lords and ladies of the court fawned on her.
But as soon as these sights appeared, they dissipated,
and she saw images of what was true, what she most hated:
her prince adjusting his purple pantaloons as he rose,
shoving her aside as he struggled to put on his clothes.
Gruffly, he left that hayloft where they had embraced—
her maidenhood bleeding; no longer chaste.
“Who are you?” the girl whimpered, recoiling from the broth
as it bubbled over, slobbering like a lunatic’s froth.
“We are you,” the three witches said, “as you well know.”
The girl tried to flee, then, but found she could not go.
They doffed their masks: maiden, mother, and crone,
and they each had her face, and her face alone,
marking, with a map of ridged wrinkles, her future years,
mirroring her life to come, carved by heartache and tears.
The cauldron was her heart, the storm her soul,
and the rage and the sorrow swirled from that hole.
The blackguard’s fickle word, and betrayal,
had churned this fury, they say unknown even in Hell.
Her rage increased, like a whirlwind of annihilation
that gyred outward to level village, castle, and nation
with all of the powers of a woman thoroughly scorned,
her Hecate crown like the sickle moon, sharply horned
with all the bestial rage of her jilted pain
as the elements obeyed this vengeful Queen’s reign…

The guards found her at the first light of dawn,
babbling madly upon the diamond-dewed lawn.
She raved and clawed at the prince’s tower—
his wedding was moved to a later hour.