Regarding karma, we have no choice but to deal with whatever lot in life we are given and to accept what is not always within our control to change or fix. It is the beauty of fairy tales that they more often have a happy ending: indeed, the father will snare his goat, the caretaker will live out his days hunting in the Royal forest and the miserable chicken will get her revenge. We can hope. I always wanted to publish a book of short stories (with a few poems sprinkled in) and I got my wish, Marriage by Fire (Big Table Publishing Company) coming this February. www.nancyscott.net
Her husband had been gone four days.
On the third night, she began to be afraid.
The thatched roof had sprung leaks.
The children ran with buckets to catch the torrent
of rain, which threatened the miserable cottage.
He’d promised to bring food, but now she fed
the children dandelion greens and bramble berries.
Under cover of rain, she sent the oldest boy across
the meadow to steal eggs from the neighbor’s coop.
The meat, cured and hung in the larder, long gone,
her husband had set out after a fresh supply.
How many times had she begged him to find
regular work, like whipping mules at the grainery
or sorting nails for the village ironmonger?
No, he was a dreamer. He’d take a jug of malt,
a wrapper of bread and cheese, and curl up
under the bridge, sometimes for days,
waiting, hoping for that one stray goat.
Lord Rauschebart’s Hands
Lord Rauschebart was not a handsome man:
bulbous nose, eyes set wide, thick brows, black
untamed beard that covered his chest like a bib,
but his hands were something else.
No one in the village could remember when
he wasn’t wearing finely-tooled leather gloves,
except for a woman, thought to be mad, who claimed
with her own eyes she’d seen his bare hands.
Soft and smooth like a baby they were. Each long
finger had a shiny nail painted the color of red wine.
You have dreamt this, the villagers said.
No, she said, I have felt them, too.
Others wanted to see a scar no matter how faint,
swelled joint, some flaw, to convince them
the stories they’d heard were true--
his hands had butchered five wives.
As villagers watched Lord Rauschebart gallop across
the fallows astride his black stallion, Bayard,
his retinue in tow, gossip scuttled back and forth--
He had his wives quartered, said the baker.
No, he did the deed himself, said the schoolmarm.
Four, not five, because one still lives, said the blacksmith.
And so it went, and we may never know the truth of it,
except that several wives have disappeared.
The Scrawny Chicken
Chicken Licken had a hard life.
She had witnessed bombings and fires
and people dead and wounded in the streets.
Food was scarce. Somehow she had managed
to avoid the axe. With all the stress, she had lost
her lustrous feathers and plump figure.
On that day, when she was pecking for food
outside a ruined shop, something
fell on her head. It certainly wasn’t an acorn.
Not one tree left standing anywhere. She knew it
was too small to be a missile. Maybe space junk or
most likely the sky was falling. Whom to tell?
Loosey Goosey, Ducky Lucky, and Turkey Lurky
had been served up early in the war.
Should she tell the King? No, he was responsible
for all this devastation. So Chicken Licken
ignored the bump on her head and continued searching
for scraps to eat. If indeed the sky was falling,
she prayed it would land on the King’s head,
then peace would reign in the kingdom again.
The Poor Man’s Bride
Penniless, he built his bride
a house with no roof or walls,
only a door of twisted twigs.
Most days, she’d sit and stare
across the foggy moor, dream
of children she would never rear.
At night, she’d hook a kettle
on the hob that didn’t warm
and latch the door against the wind.
A wild dog adopted her.
She’d pluck the burrs from its coat
and feed it off her plate.
She never raised her voice
to complain, yet the poor man knew
that howling from the uplands
would rouse in her
desires he could not fulfill.
The day she disappeared
she left his supper on the table,
a brackish stew
of thistledown and thorns.
My grandfather and my father before me
have held this honor, although I’ve no heirs
to pass it on to. Alas, my hair turns grey
with the monotony of it all.
No one has been inside the palace for almost
a hundred years. Until now I have waited
without regret for a brave soul to breach
the brambles and thick vines grown denser
by the year. I’ve never believed what I cannot
touch, but surely the palace is enchanted.
In winter, smoke rises from its six chimneys,
and from the parapets the crows’ caw
is persistent at full moon. I’ve no desire
to know the truth of it or madden the ghosts
of those entombed. Where is the Prince
who will break the spell so I might spend
my last days hunting unfettered
in the Royal Forest?—my reward
for faithful service. Lately, I have shot
a brace of pheasants and a wild boar,
food fit for…. Shhh, someone approaches….
All poems from The Owl Prince, Retold Fairy Tales (Kelsay Books, 2015)
© 2018 Nancy Scott
© 2018 Nancy Scott
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