I didn’t always flinch at kindness
but now a stray hand at my elbow
to steady me while carrying trays
The first year after I left,
I was only good for washing dishes,
leaving my fur matted with water and lye
while my eyes stared unseeing.
There is no story to remember:
here I am only a scared animal
that does as it is told
with quickly-working sooty fingers.
The second year after I left,
something inside me unfurled.
Whatever my father reached inside me and broke
stirred just a little.
Pastry blossomed under my fingers
transforming into sweet buttery shapes
with only a few stray hairs
and people noticed.
The third year after I left,
the cook stopped scolding me
the maids stopped teasing me
and if the prince noticed, I didn’t.
I wove a beautiful thing
and only later knew it a net,
too absorbed by suds and sobs
that came on suddenly.
The fourth year I could breathe again,
wear the dresses without shuddering,
touch and be touched without freezing,
and I noticed the prince noticing me.
There is no story, but this is the truth:
a powerful king takes what he wants,
a mourning daughter yields,
a wise prince waits.
No godmother aided my flight.
I asked for the dresses on my own.
I did not escape unscathed.
But I did not let him attend my wedding.
It took five full years until I was ready
to drop my ring in the prince’s cake batter
and reenter society on my own terms.
He’s worth the wait; so, I learned, am I.
Jeana Jorgensen holds a PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She currently teaches folklore, anthropology, and gender studies at a Midwestern liberal arts college, while both publishing academic research and blogging about folklore topics, feminism, and sex education. She directs a dance troupe, Indy Tribal, and her poetry has appeared in Stone Telling and Mirror Dance. Her personal essay about divorce was published in Split: true stories about the end of marriage and what happens next. She can be found on Twitter as @foxyfolklorist and her blog is located at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/