Thursday, October 14, 2010

'Snow White to the Woodsman'. Just another scribble...



A poem, written a year or so ago, imagining that Snow White's heart may not just have been saved by the woodsman (or huntsman)...but won by him too.  But a princess must marry a prince, must she not, no matter who holds her heart?  This is probably the longest poem I've ever written.  It is also probably not finished, but none of my poems ever are.  I need someone else to tell me when they're complete, I never know, just as I never know if they're any good.  And so the perpetual perfectionist in me cannot resist tinkering over and over.  The illustration is, of course, by the incomparable Arthur Rackham.





GO, now.
Build your woodsman’s hut
     deep in the forest of star-stealing trees
     or by the sun-wrinkled sea.
It matters not.
Live.
Make a garden filled with herbs magical
     and all manner of things good to eat.
Plump tomatoes heralding summer’s heat.
Robust carrots finding their feet
     in the moist, dark soil.
Delicate beans fingering soft green toward the sun.
Pumpkins fit for any princess to ride home.
Measure the days out in teacups filled with sunshine sipped
     leaning on your spade
     beneath the apple tree
     heavy with fruit as red as heart’s blood (how else could they be?)
And look to the path that winds through the dunes
     or bends in the tunnel of trees.

And on terror filled nights when the wind whips the waves 
     to towering creamy peaks.
Or the forest cracks and beats trunk against trunk
     to splinter the weak...
     summon a maelstrom.
Cook with sheer passion, wild abandon
     be sure to always leave your windows open.
Then, frozen and wet, seeing your light
     draw the lonely and lost travellers to your door
     nostrils filled with the promise of warmth 
     in bellies cramping and cold.
When they knock, gently lead them in
     and pass out your bowls of steaming soup 
     piled high with love and hope.

In the morning when the storm has passed
     the sky is blue and the sun is bright,
     point them to the path they lost in the night
     where it dips and bends away to the east.
Do this.
Be patient.
Wait.
And one night she will come.
Stumbling on small white feet
     frozen and bloodied from the stony path.
Perhaps she lost her sealskin, stolen
     by a heartless man.
Perhaps she followed a trail of breadcrumbs 
     too far to find her way home.
Wrap her in your warmest coat and seat her by the fire.
Rub her frozen fingers between your warm and
     work-roughed hands.
Ladle all your longing into a bowl and watch her sip.
Say nothing, for nothing need be said.
Watch her as you would a wild and beautful thing you cannot own.
A white swan.
A woodland doe.

When her fingertips warm between yours
     her cheeks flush pink
     and her eyelids dip,
Carry her gently to your single bed
     wrap her warm like a child, kiss her forehead. 
And spend the night yourself in the chair by the fire.
In the dawn when her eyelids flutter wide
     bring her tea made with herbs
     sweet honey from your hives.
When she stands to leave, give her your coat.
Point to the path she lost in the night.
Smile.
And let her go.

Yet watch, hope, 
     for a moment, wait.
Let her see
     you fed her from your brimming soul.
And I promise you 
     she will not reach the gate,
     but turn around,
     turn back to take your hand.
What happens next I cannot tell
     it is for you to complete the spell.
But I fancy if I passed your window some days hence
     on business I know not what,
     I might see you standing by the wooden bench
     arms around her.
Floured hands on floured hands

     kneading the new day’s bread.
And as she leans back against you
     you might bend your head
     to kiss the long white curve of her neck.


And on wild nights
     still cook with wild abandon, but
     a small meal just for two.
Close the windows fast.
Let the weary travellers pass.
You cannot feed them all.


Promise me, 
     when she comes
     you will send a letter with your news?
I will take it down to the sea,
     wash it clean with salt-sea tears.
And when the page is bleached white and dry
     I’ll write the things I should have said
     and all the things I should have done,
     cut a long lock of my raven hair
     squeeze a drop of red blood from my thumb.
And binding three colours together, sealed with a kiss
     I’ll bury it beneath an apricot tree.
That something sweet and good might grow
     from what was almost, but could never be
     between Thee and me.




© Christina Cairns 2010


10 comments:

Joan said...

Oh you are such a story teller..I love this. i read it out aloud and loved it. I love that the visitor could have followed a trail of breadcrumbs ..or may have had her sealskin stolen..i loved it all and it makes me want to read old stories.

Debrina said...

You're such a delerious romantic Cat! I'm afraid I am too and so I absolutely adore that poem you wrote a year ago. How beautiful and how full of story you are. Thanks for making my start to the morning a special one!

Swan Artworks said...

I was immediately drawn in by...
'...deep in the forest of star-stealing trees
or by the sun-wrinkled sea...'
I love this kind of word craft, a great piece of work :)

WOL said...

That wasn't a poem, that was a whole movie! About the second line in, I wasn't reading any more. I was watching it play out in my head. Wow! That one is definitely a keeper!

summertime dreams said...

Wow! That is fantastic! So beautiful! I felt your characters as your words painted the scene before me and brought the story to life.

Elizabeth said...

It was beautiful! I loved it! The imagery was just fantastic and had me absorbed in it almost immediately. Wonderful poem :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other people. Your poetry is wonderful. Don't forget to put the copyright symbol after your poems. From an old Quokka you know well.

Angela said...

Wonderful! I loved your poem, the imagery and emotions it evoked were quite powerful. :-)

Beth Niquette said...

And you are a poet too? Amazing. Lovely. Wonderful.

DogLogic said...

You write in the language of my dreams.

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