by Jeannine Hall Gailey
I walked a thousand miles to find you, but it turned out you'd been beaten and left for dead outside a bar in New Jersey. I could no longer do the calculations to save you. If I'd been there — but no, she had already tempted you with promises of a safer home, somewhere farther north. What did you expect from a woman dressed in swan feathers? In the old days, you cooked for me while our parents were at work and we waited, stuffing our backpacks with notes and secret codes. You tended the flowers, you braided your baby sister's hair, you bicycled to see me in your spare time in summer. That was years ago. I lost my red cap and my shoes in the process. Now I am a hardened criminal, or so I heard the last time I stayed in town long enough to get a reputation. No more gambles on star-patterns slivered in frost, no more of your fingers on the keys of a piano, no more of your hot eyes on the cool skin of my throat. I waited ages, and the roses withered and died. I smashed a thousand castles for you and destroyed a hundred evil queens, I rescued boy after boy but none of it brought me closer to you. The trail of the snow bees has grown cold, swarmed into nothingness. Left to haunt the blue eyes of girls so young they've never known anything yet of love. Let the mirror shatter. I will take the sleigh and the white furs. I will build you a shrine in the ice. I will be glitter and sharp glass.
Jeannine Hall Gailey is the author of Becoming the Villainess, published by Steel Toe Books. Poems from that book were featured on NPR's The Writer's Almanac and Verse Daily; two were included in 2007's The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches at the MFA program at National University. Her new book, She Returns to the Floating World, will be published by Kitsune Books in 2011.
When asked of what poem the word "cherry" immediately made her think, Jeannine replied, "In Japanese poetry, there are frequent references to the time of cherry blossoms, or the "sakura zensen." In Seattle we have the Cherry Blossom festival, the festival celebrating the cherry blossom front, and also an anime conference, Sakura-con, named after the same phenomenon.
One of my favorite poems about the cherry is Basho's haiku:
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