Briar Rose

By Debra Cash

A hundred years of dreams —
I would not have given up an hour
of those shifting landscapes, the tower, the lagoon
the rough roses making a cradle around my bed.

Everything stops
for me and for everyone else I know
while behind my wincing eyelids I absorb
my parents’ recklessness.

We wanted the best for you, they’ll tell me:
all those girlish virtues
a pretty face and figure, kindness to the poor
the ability to sing and play the spinet.

Inviting the colors of the rainbow to my Christening,
spraying me with holy white light,
they locked out one color of the spectrum
the darkness that absorbs it all

and I blame my father. Maleficent came to his birth
just as surely as she did to mine:
the difference is that everyone knew her then
when her name was Poverty and Need

and the guests all bowed their heads. In our day,
my birthday, no one expected her.
Evil, they called her. I call her
Resentment. Fury. Locked away, I dream

and no one tells me what to do.
No one breaks in. And when a stranger offers me a spindle
glistening, sexual, I sink into the pillows
and remember the worst has already happened:

I have survived death and turned it into sleep
and a dream lasting one hundred years.

When I wake
I will know my lover’s face.

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