There’s no blood in my shoes.
I always knew that in preparing for the prince it was important to have unmutilated feet, so, except for a few dance shoes that were specially balanced and well made, I never even bothered to wear high heels.
Okay, maybe my feet are too big—maybe that’s why the prince hasn’t found me.
Thing is, I like this raggedy old top and my comfortable jeans. Wearing a ball gown is all very well for a photo op, or if you have a particularly competent dance partner, but even then you’re limited to waltz and foxtrot and such.
I want to swivel my hips, I want to run with the wind. I want to move. I want to move you, too, if possible, but above all I want to move.
I like my feet and where they carry me.
I am sorry you feel that way, my son.
My parents said I had to go and so I went. I was still obedient then. I suppose I still am.
On the way to the camp I missed my two younger sisters so much. Once I was there and given my duties I forgot even my sisters. That was no place for sweet memory. There was only time for pain, anger, hatred, shame, despair. There was only time for disbelief that I had to be there and had to do what I had to do. I swore then that I had no family and I have kept that vow. Not that it does any good.
I have no family except your father who is sorry that he married a whore.
I have no family except you, my son, who are sorry that your mother was a whore.
I have no family except my decaying self that is sorry I have to live like this.
I once was a young girl. I once had such dreams.
You once were a young boy. You once had such dreams. Maybe you dreamt of being a foundling. Maybe your true mother was a secret princess who had to abandon you for your own good. Then you came home from school into a kitchen smelling of cabbage and bacon and grits, and you knew you had neither choice nor hope. We were it. Your father who drank and your mother who cringed or yelled obscenities, and the sad part is, the more I yelled, the less he beat me to try and pass along his pain. When I tried to be pleasant, it didn’t go well for us.
But you know what? Maybe I was a princess once. In that long forsworn family that sent me on my way.
I gave your father one brilliant moment of glory—when he decided he would save me out of that hellhole where men lined up outside of the tent to come spill their seed, all of them eager to do it, and all of them disgusted that they had to do it like that. I could swear when he asked me, his brown eyes shone with nobility and his spirit flew around him like a dove.
It didn’t last, this spirit, this shining.
I know I was luckier than most. I do not know why he chose me. I didn’t ask. He never said. I was no prettier than any of the others. I was no more skillful than any of the others. I guess it was the lottery of life.
I feel like a decaying rose that never bloomed.
I want to say to you, let us bow our heads and pray. But such words seem too delicate for this gritty life.
Before you went to school where you were taunted and also praised we had one sunny day by the river. I will not forget. I fed you plum cakes. You likely don’t remember, no. Sunlight played with the water, brilliant shivers of light.
I had moments of light as a child, too. All children, I believe, own buckets full of laughter. But I have promised to forget that family.
Maybe I, too, should learn to forgive. I do not know how.
After we learn to love again, it will be easier.
Beate Sigriddaughter, http://www.sigriddaughter.com, lives and writes in New Mexico, USA, the Land of Enchantment. Her work has received several Pushcart Prize nominations and poetry awards. In 2018 FutureCycle Press will publish her poetry collection Xanthippe and Her Friends. She orchestrates a women’s writing blog at https://writinginawomansvoice.blogspot.com/.