This Is Not a Love Story

Fool girl, what's in your head?
Tell me, did you think to have
a meringue dress, a picket fence,
fat babies with your husband's eyes?
Hypocrite, I've seen you:
blowing kisses to the greenwood,
flashing flat tits at the wind.
Hush up. Save your blushes. Listen.
You'd wear all the wide world's iron shoes to rust
halt and faltering, blood-footed, nub-footed.
I know. You'd hold fast to what you fight for,
although it -- wolf, serpent, flame --
test your grip, your heart, your mind,
to breaking. Girl, you read too much.
Books lie. They promise happiness
to daughters who shun quests (the sport of sons)
and keep to paths, who peek under the bed for monsters
hoping to find nothing there but dust.

(There's a heap of old skirts on the doorstep
and a trail of old blood down the hall
There are bones, fleshed and gnawed, in the kitchen
and skins tucked like new babes in the beds
There's a tangle of lockets, gummed shut
on pale portraits of quest-orphaned sons)

Fool girl, what's in your heart?
Tell me, did you think to find
some incubus to barter for your firstborn
in the sallow grass, some ghost to haunt
your bridal bed, lying between you
and your husband like a sword?
Hypocrite, I've heard you:
wishing you could bite your heart in two,
tiptoeing indecision like a wire.
Don't you backtalk me. I once was young.
My text was flesh, was dreams, was salt. I learned
of love (like childbirth, not pain so much as work)
and lust (better a monster's dedication than an angel's disregard)
and fascination (some are doomed to wander, some to stay).
Girl, you dream too much. Dreams worry at
your wounds. They take. Then dart
like startled fishes from your opened eyes.
All your wealth is acorns in the light.

(You will know him from his voice like a crossroads
and his eyes of blue, brown, hazel, green
You will know him from his heart like an owl pellet
spiked with eyeteeth, wristbones, maidenheads
You will know him from his smell like gallows new-built
like trespass, like wrack, like homecoming)

Fool girl, what's in your hands?
Tell me, did you think to best
all otherworldly pull with knots and iron gauds,
all domesticity with resignation?
Hypocrite, I know you:
bending your neck to darning needles,
oven mitts, will not unmoor your heart
before it founders; waiting nightlong
in the faery rings probably won't
earn you more than chills.
Gently, sweetling. Dry your eyes.
You'll not follow this old woman into dotage
or your sisters into madness and
an early grave: don't your books teach
it is the lot of wayward daughters
to unriddle and to wander; that
the only thing worth questing for
is the wherewithal to choose?

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