Wednesday, February 14, 2007

But I Like My Line Breaks!


I was terrified of this assignment from Poetry Thursday, even though I've written prose poems before. I think I was terrified for two reasons. First, I'm trying to distance myself from fiction in the past several weeks, and this felt a little a fiction-y for the first couple of drafts.

More significantly, I like the prompts that give me topics. This week I didn't know what to write about in prose poem form. Luckily, there is a billboard a block from my house for Cinderella 3. (Not a joke.) The tag line for the movie is "What if the shoe doesn't fit?" That's been lurking in my subconscious for a couple of weeks, and it finally got to come out.

Bedtime Story

Once upon a time, there was a girl. By day, she scrubbed stubborn gray ash from her stone bed. By night, she spun silence into silk, and cloaked herself in it. She frequented all the right places, places where nobody knew her name.

Once upon a time, there was a boy, trapped in hell. If hell was a party where people snacked on fish eggs and whispered idle lies. He saw the girl from across the room, and we know the rest. He followed her home. After dark. Watched her change back into her gray rags and wax the kitchen floor. He was hooked.

Once upon a time, he made her a promise. He gave her a pair of glass shoes, delicate and transparent as dreams. He said, “Slip these on, baby, and walk all the way home with me.” While he wasn’t watching, she put them on.

Here’s what we don’t know. They were so tight, they sliced the skin clean off her heels. It hurt like hell, and she was afraid of the blood, but she wore them anyway and hobbled home. She wore them every day. Every day watched her skin whittle away, like the unfolding of an onion. She waited for them to fit perfectly.

She waited a long time.

18 Comments:

Crafty Green Poet said...

This would make a wonderful short film! Excellent!

ecm said...

I love that this was inspired by the side of a billboard and I really like how her foot gets bloody at the end. Judith Viorst has a book of poetry for kids called If I Were in Charge of the World and has a whole series of fairy tale poems which I've always liked. Yours made me think of them

strauss said...

wow, that last paragraph was fabulous, I feel her discomfort. I have always thought glass slippers woudl be awfully uncomfortable hahaha. Thanks for the confirmation;)

Jared Sinclair said...

I agree, the last stanza is lovely. The challenge of revision with this poem is probably going to be to get there sooner. A lot of the material in the first few stanzas, while great, is peripheral to the real subject of the poem. I really love the moments where you let yourself get weird (spinning silence into silk, and especially the last stanza) and I'd encourage you to do that more. This is a prose poem after all, so no need to be afraid of going over-the-top: that's what they're for! It's a fun poem, and I really enjoyed it.

Jared

Regina Clare Jane said...

Really original! I like how you turned this fairy tale upside down- because that's how it is for most of us. Waiting for the shoe to fit...
Excellent, Jessica...

Poet with a Day Job said...

Excellent prosestory 9to5! I laughed when you said "but I like my line breaks" particularly considering the "eshcewing of the fiction" exchange we recently had. But I think you did a great job with this one, peeling yourself away from the temptation to get too into the fiction of prose. I absolutely adore this: "Every day watched her skin whittle away, like the unfolding of an onion. She waited for them to fit perfectly." and it makes me think of Katha Pollitt's The Onion. Scroll down to read Pollitt's poem. Also am as flabbergasted at the idea of Cinderella 3 as you seem to be.

twilightspider said...

Disney will do anything to earn an extra buck with DVD sales. It makes me want to be a kid again when they only released one major animated film a year.

This poem is chilling. It says so much to me about my own ideas on modern and past relationship expectations - it peels open the fairy tale just as the slipper peeled Cinderella's foot. I'm pretty much in love with what you've done.

Thanks for the kind wishes on my blog - I think I'm finally on the road to recovery!

D.Gaillard said...

Excellent, albeit slightly depressing. It makes me think of a song written by the French rock group "Telephone" that tells "the rest of the Cinderella story" where she becomes a suicidal, alcoholic single mother. Cheers!

jim said...

Of course, I'm also thinking of Anne Sexton's take on Snow White. It's so necessary for poets to fracture these too perfect fairy tales.

Jessica said...

cgp, ecm, and strauss-- thanks for the praise and for stopping by. ecm, Ill check out the Judith Viorst book; I'm obessed with fairy tales in poetry.

jared -- thank you so much for your feedback. My feelings are exactly the same. When I was writing earlier drafts of this, the beginning kept spinning out of control, but the glass slipper image is where I wanted to root the poem. I couldn't divorce myself from the structure of the story to get to the good part. This is what I mean by this being a bit too prose-y. :)

regina -- I agree that most of us at some point feel like the slipper doesn't fit... luckily, I haven't gotten there, but I've seen it around me.

pwadj--I think my half of the eschewing fiction exchange was really the whining in preparation for writing prose poem. :) thanks for linking the Pollit poem. I loved it, especially the green heart and the crying unromantic tears at the end.

Jim -- I was actually thinking of Anne Sexton's Cinderella, which is more funny than gruesome. Her fairy tale work is pretty amazing.

As always, thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented. Happy PT!

Ó Seasnáin said...

Cinderella story of the 21st century :)

gautami tripathy said...

Excellent! Very good modern day cindrella story. I find so much truth in it.

You too can chk my post, Ambrosial.I would welcome critical comments for this prompt.

dogfaceboy said...

Terrific. I think Cinderella is a timeless inspiration. I've written a few about her myself. And I've waited for the shoe to fit.

Norma said...

I think advertising phrases and photos make fabulous poetry prompts. You've done a terrific job. I'll never look at a tight shoe quite the same again.

SLP said...

I have a long-standing (crackpot) theory that the entire women's shoe industry is a man-driven conspiracy to torment us into distracted submission (hard to concentrate on anything when your feet are caged).

I always wanted Cinderella to wear a big ole pair of sh*t-kicking Doc Martens to the ball.

My favorite line in your poem is "...where people snacked on fish eggs and whispered idle lies." This is a great example of the "show not tell" concept that English teachers are always trying to get students to grasp.

Another fairy-tale poetry collection well-worth checking out:
The Poet's Grimm

inkspill said...

What an original entry! I love the image of her skin withering away like an onion. Amazing! Prose poetry agrees with you :)

SLP said...

Jessica -
Wanted to tell you that your Cinderella twist must have stayed in my mind, because I felt compelled to write my own fairytale variation this week - so, thanks!
SLP

jillypoet said...

I love this! I love poems that revise old tales. The sliced like an onion is so vivid! Just great!