Becoming The Villainess

By Jeannine Hall Gailey

A girl — lovelocked, alone — wanders into a forest

where lions and wolves lie in wait.

The girl feeds them caramels from the pockets of her paper dress.

They follow like dogs.

Each day she weaves for twelve brothers, twelve golden shirts

twelve pairs of slippers, twelve sets of golden mail.

She sleeps under olive trees, praying for rescue.

In her dreams doves fly in circles, crying out her name.

For a hundred years she is turned into a golden bird,

hung in a cage in a witch’s castle. Her brothers

are all turned to stone. She cannot save them,

no matter how many witches she burns.

She weeps tears that cannot be heard

but turn to rubies when they hit the ground.

She lifted her hand against the light

and it became a feathered wing.

She learns the songs of mockingbirds, parakeets, pheasants.

She wanders into the forest more herself.

She speaks of her twelve stone brothers.

There is a dragon curled around eggs. There is a princess

who is also a white cat, and a tiny dog

she carries in a walnut shell.

She befriends a reindeer who speaks wisdom.

They are all in her corner. It seems unlikely now

that she will ever return home,remember what

it was like, her mother and father, the promises.

She will adopt a new costume,

set up shop in a witch’s castle,

perhaps lure young princes and princesses

to herself, to cure what ails her —

her loneliness, her grandeur,

the way her heart has become a stone.

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