I should have known by the chirping toads, that my past
was catching up with me, that Daddy was holding court, that
my wit would let me have lands, filled with dragonflies mating:
jewel upon jewel, tourmaline wings. Eyes, flashing fire
and icicle tears drip off a broken roof. Consider, the cat,
shanghaiing a speckled toad. I half-expected it to become
a footman, in her soft grip of teeth. It was her present to me,
as I rail the curse of being the youngest. Papa still able
to line the others up: all the mice and lizards, a bellowing
forest, how could he still rule this slippery earth? How could he
decree me disloyal? Consider, the youngest, as she is known
by so many names, the nesting doll that stays hidden like
a split seed. Zezolla, Ella, Danielle: call me the favorite,
swaddled in wooden shells, these nesting dolls that could
tread the water, balsa-light like boats. I stuffed a jar
with fireflies. I took a dull slipper and coaxed the blink
and pause of you, into a glass, to remind me of your heartbeat.
A captive lightning storm enclosed in globe. Had I released you
at the right time, you would have become food for Father.
Instead, I cup my hands around you and release
you like wishing stars. Holy storm: let these quick fairies, split
the forest trees, singe the warts off old Daddy’s head. Let me rain,
let me hail a forest-chosen Ragamuffin Queen. I stand before
you lessers: swift foxes and deer. I stand before you, old-men
‘possums with a green-robed chorus of frogs. My face is streaked
with the soot of vagrant dragonflies. They skitter and dance
in their red-velvet gowns while Daddy looks longingly at his last meal.
All day, your heartbeats shine somewhere in a canopy of trees.
You lure me to the forest, as Daddy croons his lasting forgiveness.
Lady slippers leave their hollows, tip-toe quietly away.
This poem is part of a Cinderella sequence Byro has written. You can find the other poems in the series here: Ashes & Cinders
Laurie Byro has been facilitating “Circle of Voices” poetry discussion in New Jersey libraries for over 16 years. Laurie was named “Poet of the Decade” by the Interboard Poetry Community as her poems received awards 42 times including 2012 Poem of the Year as judged by Toi Derricotte.