Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wicked (Step)Mother

Anne Sexton
I was wrapped in black
fur and white fur and
you undid me and then
you placed me in gold light
and then you crowned me,
while snow fell outside
the door in diagonal darts.
While a ten-inch snow
came down like stars
in small calcium fragments,
we were in our own bodies
(that room that will bury us)
and you were in my body
(that room that will outlive us)
and at first I rubbed your
feet dry with a towel
because I was your slave
and then you called me princess.

Oh then
I stood up in my gold skin
and I beat down the psalms
and I beat down the clothes
and you undid the bridle
and you undid the reins
and I undid the buttons,
the bones, the confusions,
the New England postcards,
the January ten o'clock night,
and we rose up like wheat,
acre after acre of gold,
and we harvested,
we harvested

I am only human. And not really all that old, as time is reckoned. And once upon a time, I was a princess.

You laugh. All you can see are the crow's feet, the blotches on my hand from too much sun. Hair with a few white streaks, right there, where I always said I wouldn't dye. Say, of photographs, "that can't really be you."

Men lay at my feet. Wrote my name on walls with spraypaint. Beat their chests as I gave them up. I was worshipped; a goddess.

Now, I see this girl, who looks like me. So much like me but better. No Oil of Olay could ever get me back there, no Age Defying makeup slant my eyes or highlight that color.

And this girl, I love, with an ache that eats my heart. Licks its fingers afterwards. Leaves me alone in a woods with wolves and red cloaks if I even imagine her not smiling at me. A tiny piece of me; the best bits.

What am I to do? They made me a step-mother. A little distance, makes it seem easier.

I avoid mirrors. They are only out to lie. I don't speak to fairies. All that wing-span makes them flighty. I sew buttons; I sew tapestries; I sew the entire history of my people. And I watch as she replaces me.

And I smile. Because, contrary to the Grimmest interpretation, it really is okay.