once upon a time
— reid mitchell
Do I have only time for one last story?
last meaning not till next time but last?
the last gift I can give you?
the last harm I can inflict?
the last words to make my silence ring?
I could tell the Story of Yellow Jack and Brown Bess
the Butcher’s Wife and the Buddhist
how Snow Came to the Sahara
or the Floods that Uncovered a Tomb.
I could tell instead how the Tiger Learned to Walk
how the Two Daughters Came to be Lost
the Ghost on the Midnight Express
or the Weak Man and the Black Girl
even Clouds and Rain on Sorceress Mountain.
But I know only half the story of you and me
and you hold that half that matters
you, whose mouth is filled
with tongue and words and spit and savor
and no stories at all.
Once upon a time, not so far away
a boy with horse and bird
a white horse and a black bird
no, a dappled horse and a dappled bird
rode west upon his mare’s haunches, his hawk hurled upon the western wind.
a castle, a maiden, a monster with human face.
He called the maiden sister and the monster self
and burned the castle down.
He hunted on hands and knees through the ashes of wealth
found fool’s gold worth folly
and turned toward the moon with the gift.