Said Rapunzel to the Wolf

by Sally Rosen Kindred


You should have been in my story.
I’d have been one of twelve daughters.
My story has sisters. Those sisters had hair
the color of moons. Their beds circled mine

nights in a stone room
that anchored our sleep. On hard ground,
iron as your eyes. We had no need
for a ladder: we got to lie down

and stay down. We got to rise
into song, shared words that curled
on our skin.
But the room had a door

and there is always a witch standing there.
She's Mother:
one thing my mouth can’t change.


My story starts in the throat.
The throat is a tower: the story climbs out
of that red cage, personal, burning,

crawling in cinders along the grass
until it climbs
your hackles, your gray ruff.

My story rides you out of here
across the bridge to a forest
where the witch can’t pass.

Not to meet the prince.
It wants to be alone
with you.

My story wants time
feeling your breath heat
its fine hair.

You are wild. You throw us off,
my body and story. But I know you hear.
You're fierce.
You will bear us.


Safe in the woods, but we've forgotten
those sisters. We must return
for them

which means finding
their dresses torn
in the starry brambles. You'll carry me,

lay me down to weep at their empty shoes.
Sisters: it was a mistake to make them.
Just lost girls. Something else we can't keep.


You belonged with me.
I had the greater need.
I had no red hood, nothing to cover my head.
Truth? I had no sisters to cut the hair

from me before
it could be mounted.


What was worse
than her casting me into your woods to die
was how, betrayed, she cut
my hair, as if

the real daughter nested there,
as if the dead blond sheen of me mattered more —

how she held to it, held it
to her cheeks, crooning
when I was no longer on the other end.

At once, I could see
my prince would do the same.

Nights now, blind to other beauties,
he reaches for my neck's lost cloud, longs
for it to grow
and give him back

his reason for climbing.

And she
starves in the tower,
satisfied to have it,

the long braid of some other girl's song.


My story cried out for a wolf.
Stop panting. You could have come
at any time.

You could have been its sorrow,
its graveyard, its animal rage,
the moon's gray back

I drove across the cornflowers —
or the teeth I needed
swinging down.

I would have let you be afraid.
We'd move together, a body,
a new breath
by fur and blood: no mother's knife,
no golden stair.

Sally Rosen Kindred is the author of two poetry books from Mayapple Press, No Eden (2011) and Book of Asters (2014). Her latest chapbook, Darling Hands, Darling Tongue (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013), is a set of poems about the girls of Peter Pan's Neverland. Her poems have appeared in Strange Horizons, Through the Gate, Quarterly West, and on Verse Daily.

When asked of what poem the word "cherry" immediately makes her think, she replied as follows: "The word 'cherry' makes me think first of Robert Frost's 'The Oven Bird,' who 'says the early petal-fall is past / when pear and cherry bloom went down in showers / on sunny days a moment overcast. / And comes that other fall we name the fall.' I learned that poem by heart when I was fourteen, and all those falls keep falling."

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