April 23, 2013

A Grimm and Yet Redemptive Story, By Kate Wilson

Editor's note: Poetry doesn't have to rhyme, but sometimes it's fun when it does. Case in point with "Grimm and Yet Redemptive Story." Yet, in the midst of all of this cozy rhyming is a sad and intriguing tale.

"Eve of Saint Agnes," by Elizabeth Siddal (altered image)

D'you know of the wee one,
The small, lonely she-one
Who wanders from seashore to plain?
Who taps on the window
And raps at the glass
And presses her hand to the pane?

I'll tell you her tale now,
Of how she grows frail now;
If you will sit still, I'll explain.
Perhaps, too, we'll see her,
Or hear her soft step
Outside, in the dark, in the rain.

Oh, don't think to fear her.
It's luck to be near her--
She means us no harm with her quest.
She creeps through the night, now,
Bereft and forlorn.
She peers into homes; she can't rest.

And why does she do that?
I'm saying to you that
Her story is tragic at best.
She can't stop her journey.
She's driven, you see,
To roam north and south, east and west.

She's old as the sea and
She's faded and twee and
She's dressed in a bundle of rags.
But once she was human,
A child like yourself,
Not something that staggers and sags.

It started one night when
She woke to a sight! When
She'd slept, frost had opened its bags.
On her window it drew
And covered the pane
With silvery ziggings and zags.

She rose up, delighted,
And cried out, excited:
"Who made all these pretties for me?"
She scurried outside then,
And met with her doom:
A creature who longed to be free.

It snuck up behind her,
In order to bind her.
It tapped on her back, one-two-three.
In the blink of an eye,
She lost who she'd been,
And into the night had to flee.

The creature? It laughed like
A spirit gone daft, like
A storm wind that howls through the sky.
It hasn't been seen since
The child took its place,
The child who will never know why.

She wanders the town. She
Roams uphill and down. She
Now lingers and lurks like a spy.
She longs for her home, one
She never will find.
Shh, listen… you don't hear her cry?

She breathes on our windows
As we and our kin doze,
All safe in our warm, cozy beds.
She yearns to see in, but
Her breath clouds the glass,
All mixed with the tears that she sheds.

Your window is foggy--
It's she makes it smoggy,
Or frosts it with crystal that spreads
From the sill to the top.
It covers and hides
What's sought as she gingerly treads.

But no one will greet her,
No mother will meet her,
Alone as she flits through the dark.
Still, look! On your window,
The print of her hand—
So tiny and dreary and stark.

So what shall we do, then?
Pretend it's not true? Then
You don't know what's made the dogs bark?
Just pull up our covers
And turn to our dreams,
Forgetting that sad, little mark?

No! Raise up the sash, please,
Shh, quiet—don't clash, please.
We'll back off and let her come nigh.
Ah, there. She's inside. Such
A look on her face!
You hear that? That whispery sigh?

We'll make you a home here,
No need now to roam, hear?
We'll warm you and rub your hair dry.
No more will you stumble
And peer from the dark.
Hello, tiny seeker—yes, hi!













Kate Wilson has done her share of wandering. Her work has been published in Cricket, Highlights, and other magazines.

7 comments

  1. Kate, loved this poem! So mystical and you made this misty little one so endearing.

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  2. I'm a great lover a rhyme. This has a wonderful 19th Century feel to it. "Windows/ kin doze" made me smile, but not to the extent that it undermined the magic of the story.
    "Frost had opened its bags" strikes me as an example of how the discipline of rhyme can force a poet into an imaginative phrase she otherwise would not have come up with.

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  3. I love the idea of the little waif making frost flowers on our windows. It's very sad, and also a bit creepy--always a plus with me!

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  4. Absolutely loved this one!

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  5. Thanks, everyone! I'm glad you enjoyed this.

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  6. I remember this one well, and the picture that prompted it. Our ColoradoKate ROCKS!!

    Marie Elena

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  7. Ah, Kate, this is fantastic. I love it. It was meant to read aloud, in the shadows surroundings the fireplace on a late winter's night. I'm so glad that I didn't miss this.

    Keep up this wonderful work.

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