November 20, 2012

Bride Gift, By Shannon Connor Winward


"Sleep," by Simeon Solomon
Editor's note: Shannon's poem intrigued me and that's what made it one of the October winners. Is it based on "The Princess and the Pea"? I think so. The description is certainly enticing.
 
Tithe every household a wagon of chaff
and a goose
bring me a ship of the finest linen
call up an army of seamstresses, weavers
and carters
woodsmen to fell the forest.
My Liege, employ the kingdom.
 
Bid them make the scaffolds mighty
(and sturdy)
let it rival the tallest castle spire
build me a tower
layer by layer
straw, ticking, down and silk.
 
Send your armada to escort me across the ocean
raise me up in a litter of gold
borne on the backs of champions
lay me down under a canopy of stars
and promise me Heaven.
 
I will give you my hand
my fidelity, benediction
coronation in the circle
of my arms
 
I will give you my body
sovereignty
in my hills and valleys
my flesh, my womb
I will give you sons
   and daughters
you will never be forgotten
nor forsaken.
 
I will give you solace
at day’s end
I will soothe your weary bones
forgive your sins, my dear one.
I will give you my heart
and a home
 
but first
you must pass
a simple test:
 
lie with me
in this tower of ambition
under the gaze of angels.
 
I will feel it
if you have hidden
even the smallest doubt
I will sense it
if your harbor
the merest kernel of a lie. 
 
Your thoughts
are as plain to me, my King
as the view from our marriage bed
the palm of the earth
open, her fingers
 
tickling the shore.
From here a boulder
is a pebble
a pea
Sire, lie with me
and if you do not love me
I will know.
 
Shannon Connor Winward's poetry and fiction have appeared widely in such venues such as: Pedestal Magazine, Strange Horizons, Flash Fiction Online, Enchanted Conversation, Illumen, Ideomancer, and various anthologies.  Her poem, “All Souls’ Day” was nominated for a 2012 Rhysling Award.

17 comments

  1. A really well constructed poem, very enjoyable to read too. A worthy winner. Congratulations.

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  2. I literally got goosebumps when I read the lines, "I will feel it/if you have hidden/even the smallest doubt."

    Likewise with "Sire, lie with me/and if you do not love me/I will know."

    So obviously a winner!

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  3. Bravo. Wonderful poem, and if it is indeed about the Princess and the Pea, my mind is slightly blown.

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  4. The language is so lovely and is such an interesting take on The Princess and the Pea - no wonder Kate chose this poem!

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  5. This is a gorgeous poem depicting a woman giving herself to a man in marriage. Her strength and purpose is evident, the fact that she demands to show her husband that she is worthy to be trusted is remarkable. Because of this she agrees to whatever outrageous task that he may require of her to prove her loyalty, even if it is to go up into the tallest tower and lie upon numerous layers of bedding which engulf a pea to prove that she is worthy. However, while he is testing her she at the same time is testing him, so that she may know if he is worthy of her. The imagery is absolutely gorgeous, I feel as if I am traveling with the woman over the ocean and being carried in the golden litter and the beautiful stars that she’ll see in her travels. Her desire to be his wife and queen, to give birth to his children is portrayed in the truest of sense. It is written beautifully in every way.

    Anna W.

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  6. First and Foremost, I have to admit that I love the picture of the women that comes along with this poem. It helps me get a better picture of who the women in the poem is, the lady looks older, maybe early 30’s, quite simple, yet very beautiful. This is a wonderful story I could just feel how close and how well this lady knows the King. I wonder if they have known each other for a long time, simply by how she says “Sire, lie with me and if you do not love me. I will know.” Sometimes when two people have been together for such a long time it doesn’t take much from them to know when something is wrong. Just by having them near you it is easy to feel when something is bothering them, maybe by the change in attitude or if their distant from you. This lady shows how faithful and loyal she will be to her husband, no matter what they have to go through to in order to prove it. This story is written with such powerful words it made me feel peace, and love.

    Diana H.

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  7. Another remarkable poem, I must say I enjoy reading every word and details of it. This poem shows the essential and significance of a woman vows to her husband before marriage. Many people in today’s society have forgotten the significance of marriage between two people. This poem shows how, one woman is willing to give herself to her husband if only he truly loved and trust her. She wants him to know that she is worthy of his trust, as mush as he is worthy of her giving him sons, and daughters. She promises to love him, through all their struggles, and not allowed challenges destroy them. Somehow I feel like many people in todays society have forgotten the reasons why they got married, and because that, through times of tribulation and major challenges their marriages always falls apart. Never the less I must say that this poem needs to be told to the rest of the world, so we may remember the significance of why we agrees to get married. I really enjoy reading this poem. However I am not at the age of marriage yet, but I’ll always remember it important message when my time shall come.

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  8. When I started reading this I thought that it would be from a witch or some kind of villain: wrong, it was from mothers of fairy tale children. The way they talk about their children is almost degrading. Calling them silly girls. Why weren’t the mothers present? But they could meet once a year and save their children. This just really confused me. I agree that it does sound like a speech. But I could also see it being a lecture that a grandmother is giving to her grandchildren. Like how parents tell their children about the mistakes that they made and how not to follow in their footsteps. I think it’s comical how the author includes Walt Disney in the poem. He did modernize the stories, which ultimately made them “softer” and easier for people to accept. Sherman uses the words interesting and heartwarming when talking about fathers raising their daughters. But they don’t say anything about step-mothers. And would these women be included in the yearly meeting? Or are they of a different breed? Made me think...

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  9. This is an awesome poem that has such incredible detail that words cannot describe. The language and flow throughout this poem is incredibly smooth. This poem deserves an award and can be a model for great poems. The story of a woman preparing for marriage is something that many women dream and think about all the time. Like other fairy tales, this could be read to young girls with the moral message of faith in marriage. Faith in marriage is something rare in today’s world in which most people need to take more seriously. This poem reminds me of when I was a kid and was read fairy tales by my grandmother for the soul purpose of receiving morals and values. Overall I really enjoyed reading this and your choice of vocabulary and organization was a great way of putting this together.

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  10. This poem was so amazing. I love how it made a woman look. The fact that the woman was willing to give everything up for the man, to prove her love for him, reminded me of marriage. It is amazing to hear that the woman had a passion to love one man. She had a desire to spend the rest of her life with him, and she felt as though, they were worthy enough, for each other. In today’ society, things are twisted, it appears as though we have forgotten about marriage and we feel as though one woman or one man cannot please us, the way multiple women or men can. In my personal opinion, I strongly believe it starts off with teenagers being young and dating multiple women. They become sexually involved and without realizing it, baggage beings to build up. Each man or women they get involved with is another man or women they become familiar with. Then when it does come time for one to settle down with one woman or man, they are reminded of all the ones there were with, and began to compare, which affects the relationship he or she is now in. I don’t think that as young adults we really think about the significance of waiting on being sexual active or being careful with whom we share our bodies with. We are human beings not toys and everything we do has a cause and effect in the long run rather we like it or not. I really love this poem for sharing the message of one love.

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  11. This poem is absolutely beautiful! The descriptions in this poem are enchanting, and the meaning behind it is powerful. It’s very romantic! We usually read words like these coming from a man to a woman, offering her everything if she loves and marries him. Seeing it the other way around makes the words seem even lovelier and more emotional. This woman is willing to give the man everything he desires if only he truly loves her. She asks him to do one simple thing in order for her to tell if he loves her or not, and I can only wish it was so easy to tell if a man loves you! It kind of makes me wonder if the woman has some sort of mystical powers. Or she could be under an enchantment and only if the man loves her will it break the spell, and that’s how she will know. This poem leaves us to our imagination, I love it!

    Haley Baker

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  12. A wondrous poem. So comforting to read.

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  13. I'm humbled by all of your gracious comments. I'm glad it speaks to you.

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  14. What I love about this poem is that it transforms the sensitive delicate princess from the original story (you could even look at her as a bit of a whiner) into a formidable woman indeed. Her new husband will be lucky to have her. Thanks for sharing this beautiful poem.

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  15. A very enjoyable poem. I could picture the bride-to-be standing in front of the bridegroom reciting this edict. In my mind he is standing in the doorway of her bedroom and as she is talking she is walking around a four-poster canopy bed looking back at him every once in a while seductively. I wonder what the king was thinking as he was watching and listening to her. Was he thinking that he has nothing to hide from her, and was thus not fazed by her, or was he worried that he would be discovered in his subterfuge?

    I agree that this poem is most likely based on “The Princess and the Pea” and it was a nice twist that king is the one being tested. I definitely enjoyed the very concept of the woman being in control. Too often in fairy tales, and the real world too, women get married because it is expected of them often to who they are expected to. The woman speaking in this work is fully in charge of herself, her body, and her destiny. She knows what she wants; a loving, loyal, trustworthy mate, and she is determined to get it.
    - Freyja of Sessrumnir

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