SELF-PORTRAIT IN POTENTIA
After the death of memoir, I will write fairy tales.
I desire a purity of language outside the stink of events and memories. Stories I cannot be accused of having invented because of course I have invented them.
Neither full fiction, nor freighted fact.
I would show other bones behind my telling.
Fable gifts us fanciful creatures, fanciful bodies, fanciful selves. In the tales, I shall become winged, ogrish, bulky as a mountain, a face all crooked nose and sharpened teeth—by turns witch, killer, a dragon in shadows. I rend flesh. I eat princesses whole. I am wolf and hunter both, my head too full to contain in just one mind, in just one set of teeth.
I am Little Red Riding Hood’s lover.
I pull my feet off the ground and still know where I am standing.
I grew up in a gingerbread house, led by a gingerbread man, all of us happy and perfect and filled with gumdrops to our eyelids until at last we bled gumdrops out our mouths, and still we filled with them. I was a princess who gave away her voice for love, who danced in magical shoes until her feet were stumps and slept atop 85 feathered mattresses yet still could find no rest.
All the while being told (small child in a small child’s nightgown) that monsters were never real. The very monsters I could see, could smell.
Monsters whose fur caught on railings, leaving behind tufts that I collected each morning in a pillowcase.
One grows weary of not knowing when to believe the words pouring off one’s own tongue. Over time, one starts to prick one’s finger on every spinning wheel spindle out of spite and desperation.
What if Gretel went alone into the woods.
What if the witch she found there loved her.
What if the witch loved her fierce and true, what if Gretel was a grownass woman who moved to the woods, who moved of her own free will into the candied house with the cages and the man-sized oven and the salt licks in the garden for hobgoblins and brownies, those wee fairy people of the underbrush.
What if, when I close my eyes, all my family begin to look like bears and I can’t remember why Goldilocks needed to be so hated, when all she sought was a corner safe enough to call her own.
What if every fairy tale is in truth a little girl trying to make sense of a world that wants for her only to sleep. Forever to sleep.
Tell me instead a bedtime story about the children who save themselves.
I want to tell stories but tell them slant. Tell them queer.
I want an erotic of the broken, the malformed, the never-before-loved. I want spaces for the princess-grown-spinster, for the girl-grown-woman who pushes—not her fictional brother into the fire—but a body converted at the final moments into a huntsman, into an effigy of her father, who tumbles ass over ankles into the inferno, where he is baked into a pie with blackbirds. A pie that Gretel and her witch will later eat, sitting at a table hewed from speaking trees, with silverware polished like the patina of an evil queen’s mirror, forks that glint and sparkle in the dank and noisome room.
I would take a witch into my bed, kiss her warts and tongue her teeth—not that my kiss shall turn her toad-spotted visage into beauty, but that my love might wash both our green hearts clean.
Who is to say that life among the hard, fae folk—or sleeping a thousand years in the heart of a cursed wood—sounds so terribly bad? Perhaps I like curses. Perhaps the poetry and newts’ eyes of a potion-book make more sense to me than the most straight-backed pew of a sermon ever has.
Perhaps I want a dirty home. A home literally dirt: a hole dug into the earth beneath a mountain, where I befriend the moles and half-exposed ends of worms.
Let life be broad and wild.
Let stories be unclean.
Let Goldilocks freebleed in the too-soft bed of her motherbear and give lie to every family that proclaims its happiness on the excluded back of a too-hungry, too-demanding, too-girl child.
Goodnight, sweet princess.
A knot of toads croak thee to thy rest.
“Once Upon A Time” is part of an ongoing project: revisiting myths & fairy tales as a means of addressing and healing from trauma, especially sexual violence.
The entire series can be found here.