Who you think you marry: the swan,
the freckled deer. Who she proves
to be—an iron stove leaning against
the back fence, lady of the weedy
yard, rust dusted, and in her belly
clinkers, ash. The bad mother
in the old story threw away
the barrel filled with nails.
Lift the lid. She won’t climb in.
The tale you like best: a king
takes up a brush each morning
to paint a queen’s eyebrow,
lost forever to a scar. Swans roost
all down the narrow isthmus, messy
nests, dark ball-of-fuzz young.
Each swan yearns to be changed.
When you walk past, a little one
hisses “I hate you. I mock you.”
There’s a toad in the princess’s bed.
In the yard, the stove waits
by the cold mouth of the well.
For a boy who never meets a woman,
the stove will do, distance to her
measured by his outstretched arms.
Barbara Daniels’ book Rose Fever was published by WordTech Press and her chapbooks Black Sails, Quinn & Marie, and Moon Kitchen by Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Mid-American Review, and many other journals. She received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.
Copyright 2018, Barbara Daniels