The Changeling

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Martino di Bartolomeo

Martino di Bartolomeo

They yell at me

And tell me I’m not their child.

Yet, here I am

Wearing these clothes, eating this food

Sleeping on this bed, and carrying their name.

They say the fairies are angry

And jealous.

They took the wonderful boy

And brought me here, instead.

Their sweet, golden, perfect boy,

Who lived only in their dreams and expectations.

I know nothing of fairies, of forests, of evil.

All I know is that I’m hungry and cold.

Words don’t come out of my mouth the way they do to other people.

My legs don’t move the same way as other people’s.

But I feel exactly the same way other people do, and I cry, and laugh, and grieve just the same.

Changeling, Changeling from Hell.

That’s what they call me.

Oh, boy,

Hell is where I am right now.

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Coins

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Charon and Psyche

Charon and Psyche, by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope (1883)

What kind of coins are those

that take us to the other side,

where suffering is no more?

 

In a hidden box inside our soul

we find the obol for the ferryman,

the demanding Charon.

 

Crossing the River of Death every day,

Rowing back and forth.

He´s the hooded, bent figure

we don´t wish to meet.

 

Gold, silver, ivory, diamond, no matter.

Moments of glory, splendor and success.

Thoughts of immortality and invincibility.

All left behind. No use to carry them.

 

More than any test we had to endure during our lives.

More than any moment of loneliness and desperation,

It´s the meeting with Charon we fear the most.

It´s the moment of final truth .

It´s the handing of coins,

When we´ll deposit them in his hand and dare look into his eyes

only to see

our own, distorted, face.

An Open Letter to Mr. H.C. Andersen, Author

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The first time I wore my red shoes

A beautiful forest grew inside of me.

I had to close my eyes to see it:

Mysterious, inviting, and free.

I was very young, and I´ve been visiting the place ever since

Countless times through the years.

It has fed me with leaves, roots , and herbs

Its streams have washed my tears.

I wear red shoes to walk into the forest.

They always show me where to go.

They take me where my heart tells them to

Those are magic shoes , you know.

Mr. Andersen, I´m really sorry

You didn´t have your dreams come true.

I don´t think you understood women.

Judging by your stories, you never had a clue.

To cut a girl´s feet

Because she likes to dance…

Now,  that´s cruelty beyond measure.

That´s absolute nonsense.

Girls need their red shoes.

They have to find a path into the woods.

Let us be happy and joyful, Mr. Andersen,

Let us be creatures of nature, with all our moods.

Too bad our red shoes are offensive.

There´s nothing we can do,

My mothers, my daughters, and I,

We´re meant to dance among the trees.

We´re not here to serve you.

There´ll be a day

I won´t need red shoes anymore.

I´ll find the path by myself.

Just like my mothers did before.

And you, Mr. Andersen,

Whose life resembled a poor romance,

Do not lay the blame on women.

It´s not our fault you didn´t get a chance.

(this poem was inspired by the fairy tale Red Shoes, by Hans Christian Andersen, and by the author´s biography)

Snow White Man and The Seven Princesses

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The seven princesses showed up one day.

Seven little spoiled things.

“Where´s my dinner? Hurry up, you stupid little man! Hey, that bracelet is mine! I hate this velvet: it makes me fat! That´s not fair: you have more tiaras than I do! ”

On, and on, and on they went.

 

 

“Please take them for a little while. For the Summer, maybe.”

Their stepmother begged me.

The seven little sharp-toothed monsters she had raised now wanted to eat her eyes.

 

 

I could not say no. I didn´t know how to.

So they came with that deceitful mirror of theirs,

That would say, to each and every one of them, separately:

“Thou art the fairest of them all”.

 

 

I was their slave, doing all they demanded.

I, the solitary miner, with my hair and beard iced from age,

Serving seven hard to please vampires night and day.

 

 

That´s why, one day, the apple idea came to me.

The stepmother had some witchcraft knowledge,

And I had the courage and desperation to put an end on it all.

 

 

Oh, how I savored the moment when I saw them fall,

One by one,

And all was silent and peaceful again.

 

The idea for this poem came from Neil Gaiman´s own take on Snow White, entitled “Snow, Glass, Apples” (you can read a review on this very interesting blog)  and from Terri Windling´s essay on the many versions of Snow White.

The Other Princess

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A pea? A pea?

“If you feel it, a princess you may be”

Twenty mattresses I slept on. Twenty layers to climb upon.

They asked me what was my night like:

“Did you sleep well, my dear? ”

“Well, yes, I did.”

I’ve faced hunger, and storms, and the flames of bonfires.

I’ve felt the pain of childbirth and that of isolation.

I’ve seen children come and go.

I’ve been daughter, mother, wife, and sister.

But a pea, a single pea is to decide

What sort of person I might be.

Yes, I felt it under the mattresses,

but I took it out and went to sleep.

No, sir, I won’t play the game of being the little woman.

A pea, a stupid, tiny, little pea

Will never decide what kind of woman I shall be.

The Wives

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These candles? I´ll tell you why, my boy.

 

When I got into the bloody room

They all opened their corpse eyes and said:

“Run, child, run for your life!”

Their ghostly voices strangely carrying a genuine concern.

 

All Bluebeard´s  women in that dark red room.

 

Maria was a poor shepherdess, who was starving when he found her in that filthy hut.

Dressed her in silk and draped her in pearls, and then starved her heart.

 

Catherina , the Italian Countess, was all joy and exuberance.

He envied that.

His carriage dragged her around the village one night

Until you could not tell her from her ragged clothes.

 

Louisa, the free-thinker, or so she thought, was the one who took longer to die.

He crushed all her bones with a hammer, little by little, and threw her in the room with the others, still agonizing.

 

And I, the youngest of them all, fell for what I thought was a flame of life in his eyes.

So wrong. It was hatred.

 

I almost died in his hands. But when he was about to cut my head off,

my dear brothers came to my rescue.

The good men who taught me how to climb trees, and jump in a river, and tell jokes, and fight, and laugh, came to help me in my darkest hour.

 

They brought three swords. One for me. And we fought the monster together.

 

When it was all over, we took the women´s bodies and buried them.

Years later, when your father came to the village, nobody remembered that anymore. They had forgotten how monstrous some human beings can be.

 

That is why, my son, I light these three candles every night. In the memory of my sisters . One for each of Bluebeard´s dead wives, whose fortune was so different than mine.

The Girl in the Tower

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A flap of wings.

An open window.

A beautiful creature inside, waiting for the black bird, ready to go.

 

They have been flying together for a long time now.

Appreciating each other´s company and talking about things of their different worlds.

The witch is always cursing the princes who climb the girl´s prison. She never sees the only one who flies in.

 

One day he alighted on her windowsill and she invited him inside.

And that´s how the Raven-Prince met The Lady of the Tower.

 

Funny the way things are.

People only see what they want to.

 

A young woman locked in a tower.

A witch who thinks she owns the girl.

She breaks the girl´s heart, she even cuts her braids.

 

But she´ll never, ever, suspect Rapunzel has a hidden pair of wings.

 

 

 

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