Three poems | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022


Seven Kinds of Stories


Nothing tonight but the lovesick churr

of sudden crickets. I sling dark thoughts

across the room, see where they fall.

I do not want to sleep. I flip the pages of a book.


A woman strings bright threads across a loom,

trusts piety to bring him back.

In wavering light, silence answers: Soon.

Cinderella scrambles for lentils on the floor,

Empties each grimy handful in a pot.

I do not want to sleep, I scramble

for a point in an unusable plot.

Penelope unravels a thread


Because the tapestry suffers from

too much red. A boy is plunged

headlong into a river, dry at the heel

where his mother fastens her hand.


Cinderella cannot forgive,

but knots her brows to understand.

I do not want to sleep. There are plots

I think I know by heart, but I can’t tell

who left, or returned, or broke the spell.

They name the boy Achilles and bind the heel

in leather, calfskin, the barks of ancient roots.

He wonders at the godly foot, warned against


the smallest harm: a stone, a bramble,

a stick. In Messina, Benedick

outwits Beatrice and wins the scene,

calling her his Dear Disdain.


She makes a pact with the god of wit

to win the play back: this is only

one scene; there are four other acts.


You sleep and do not read,

you sleep while I turn page after page

in dim light, follow a plot I can use

to know your mind.


A Pumpkin does not a carriage make

In real life, but it will do in Cinderella.

She eases a foot into a glass slipper

Bright as stars and cold as ice.


Midnight, She promises, Midnight,

Paris shoots an arrow clear through that coral

skin. Makes a moral out of human flaw,

as if the flaw meant human failing.


Penelope fixes her gaze in disbelief:

The olive tree so carefully pursued

turns on the loom into a map of Ithaca.

The odyssey isn’t his return,


it’s how her world extends without him:

beyond tree, or garden, the threads

on the loom. Try, they say, the slipper

on the urchin, and Cinderella


wins the world, the story, the Prince.

Seven kinds of stories and that’s every

book we know, in a thousand variations,

yet I’ve missed one—


the stoned-eyed, impossible monster

we’re meant to overcome. Was it Perseus

who told it first, was it Ishmael,

the snake-haired woman, the slippery whale


in an unruly sea? And what would you say

if I asked you tonight, say you found me

in this room, hunched over a page in dim light.


There’s a boat and a whale and a sea.

Let the narrative tell it, and let us be.

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