June 24, 2011

Three Glass Shards, By Lorraine Schein

Author's note: This poem was inspired by the “Ten Partings” poems of the medieval Chinese woman poet, Xue Tao.

1.  The Window Shard

The Queen looked out the window and sighed--
she was waiting still for her lover to come by.
He’d throw a pebble at the pane when he arrived.
She hoped to have a girl with his dark eyes.

When the King was traveling or with court matters occupied,
they would sweet tryst in this high room all the while.

She knew she was bearing the Huntsman’s child.
His hair was as black as a forest night,
his knife at the hip, red with blood shiny as glass,
as he’d come to her in the white moonlight.

Now the window she used to sit by to await him is broken.
A heavy tree branch shattered it in a violent snowstorm.
One pointed shard lies on the floor of the boarded-up tower room--
no more a medium for reflections on his love,
or daydreams of her child to be;
and unable to show the face she once yearned to see.

2.    The Mirror Shard

When it told her Snow White was the fairest,
the Evil Queen had shattered the Mirror.

Now it lays on her chamber’s floor,
silvers scattered and bent,
whispering to itself in jagged fragments,
telling the truth to her vain ears no more.

Each sliver, thin-edged with her blood like a gilt-border,
shines, as snow falls white as fine cambric to embroider
against the hard ebony sky of winter.

She does not know that her Mirror
had been forged by and instilled
with the dwarfs’ magic will.

3.    The Coffin Shard

The seven had thought Snow White dead,
but she could still hear and see,
though make no motion.

 She thought she saw her mother in the glass overhead
—but was it only her own face’s reflection?

Her mother was smiling at her.
“You will live again and be happy,” she said.

And it came true: after the apple fell from her mouth,
she woke and left with the prince to wed.

The coffin in the forest was abandoned to decay.
But the king’s men came across it
while hunting there years later, one day.

It had become covered with moss and with brambles overgrown;
a home to crawling­­­­­ insects and woodland mice.

Now the glass has been splintered by heavy snow.
It gleams split by moonlight, capped with white ice,
and strewn like wild roses on the forest floor--
bed and prison for the Queen’s dreamed child no more.

Lorraine Schein is a New York poet and writer whose work has appeared recently in Strange Horizons, Witches & Pagans and in Alice Redux, an anthology about Alice in Wonderland. Her poetry book, The Futurist’s Mistress, is available from mayapplepress.com.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely structure! You've used it to illuminate a theme running through the story that most people would not notice.

Unknown said...

“Three Glass Shards” is filled with colorful imagery, familiar characters, and an overwhelming sense of despair. It is a fantastic interpretation of “Snow White” focused around the reflective articles in the tale, all of which ended up broken and unusable. Ironically enough, it is only after the queen’s reflection, or at least in the case of the glass casket, perceived reflection, in which the glass articles shatter. One aspect I especially enjoyed is the scandalous relationship between the huntsman and the queen. It adds another element of wickedness to the already evil character of the queen while simultaneously making the reader question whether or not the huntsman was aware of his relationship to Snow White, and ulterior motives for sparing her life. “Three Glass Shards” is written with the assumption that the reader is familiar with the tale of “Snow White”, and adds a unique perspective, but is so clever that it is capable of being enjoyed by readers, as rare as that may be, who are not familiar with the classic.
-Adam Z.