Lead Into Gold

The ennui sets in
insidiously. A blue haze
creeps over the horizon
that marks the edge
of the kingdom.
Every time I look
out the window, I notice
that it has spread
a little bit more:
through the village,
up towards the castle.
It’s come for me,
the sleepy tedium
that turns sizzling bliss
into leaden boredom.

Every morning I wake up
next to a prince —
the man who rescued me
from a life of servitude
and taught me to
be vulnerable as
crocus shoots in spring.
He petted my hardened frame
until the dried layers
peeled back willingly
to reveal a pale greenness.
He told me the stars
burned white-hot for us,
together, alone.
He promised me,
not just the stars,
but the whole expansive sky.

He loves me, I know,
and I him,
but it is never enough.
The stars are dimmed
by his lonely passion,
and guilt dissolves
my insides into
dark, cavernous pools.
Making love has become
rote, as bitter as eating
lotus roots.

At night, my dreams
carry me to a witch
dressed in red
who promises me nothing.
My hair tangles and snags
at her fingers’ touch,
as she pulls my head back
to kiss my lips,
drawing blood with her teeth.
Come dawn I wake
with bruises scattered
about my body,
fresh and sore
but freely received.
Somehow, the prince
never notices these marks,
even as he roams the body
he believes to be his,
wholly.

But everything tempts me
now. The footmen,
who must avert their gaze
when they pass me, present
an engaging challenge.
When one inadvertently meets
my eyes, I lick my lips,
red like roses in the gardens
that bloom lush for just one day.
The men look startled,
but only for a moment.
After all, I’m the definitive
advertisement for decorous love.
No one would believe
that I flirt with the servants
while wishing
that my fairy tale was never written.

Maybe some day,
I’ll run away with the serving girl,
teach her to strip back
her layers until the green
beneath is bared.
I’ll forget falling through
the sky’s domain,
just to be caught in a web
of black lace veils.
I’ll remember only
the charming man
who tried to extract me
from the agony of uncertainty
and the torment of loneliness,
not knowing that
two people can be
more alone, together,
than one, separate.

And I’ll stay with the serving girl
until she leaves me,
or I leave her,
for a knife thrower
in a traveling circus
or an alchemist
who has learned to transform
lead into gold.

About the illustration: “Martine de Bertereau du Chatelet lived in the early 1600s in France. She published two works on the science of mining, the different kinds of mines, the assaying of ores and the divers method[s] of smelting them, as well as the general principles of metallurgy. In 1642, she was imprisoned for witchcraft and died in jail that year.” (Wikipedia)

 

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