May 28, 2013

Love Like Salt, By Jennifer A. McGowan

"King Lear and His Daughters (1867), by Julia Margaret Cameron (

Editor's note: "Love Like Salt" fairy tales are among my absolute favorites. There's even one in Beyond the Glass Slipper. Here, Jennifer deftly captures the emotions that swirl in those stories.

A pearl sweats near poison.
A king holds a jewelled cup,
seated between the daughter who chose gold
and the one who would go bare for no man,
but the poison at the feast is subtle:
an empty chair and ancient guilt.

A servant brings the cook
to account for the tasteless meat.
The king almost sees,
but does not hesitate to blame.
The girl does not quail;
says, "Once you cast forth a child
because you thought she loved you less."
He lowers his head, weeps.
She embraces him at last,
whispering his name,
she has made him
eat his words
and knowing nothing else
to rub in.

Jennifer A. McGowan lives near Oxford, England, and has published widely on both sides of the Atlantic.  For more poetry, info about her first collection and anthologies, and for samples of her medieval calligraphy, visit


  1. This is so beautiful. The sense of loss and regret is palpable.

    Great work!

  2. Love Like Salt is a favorite of mine too. I love the way you play with eating his words and rubbing salt in his wounds at the end!

  3. “Love Like Salt” is a short, straight to the point, fairy tale. What it lacks in length it certainly makes up for in depth. The comparison between gold and salt can be viewed in various ways. Personally, gold represented superficial love, whereas salt represented unconditional love. Gold is flashy, valuable, and desired, but salt is essential to life. The absence of salt in the meat is analogous to the absence of unconditional love. It is easy to overlook both when they are present, but when taken away they are both very evident, and to a certain extent unbearable. Not to be cliché, but it is a tale of “not knowing what you have until it is gone”. Anyone who has ever lost someone they loved, mother, father, grandparent, etcetera, certainly understands this message. I particularly enjoyed when the king comes to this realization, more explicitly the reference to the daughter, “knowing nothing else to rub in”, the phrase is an exclamation point on the moral of the story.
    -Adam Z.