Today, at Ploughshares, I wrote about women, violence, and fairy tales. You can read it here!
Tag Archives: fairy tales
(This is a freewrite I did probably in my first year of college so AGES ago, which I unearthed today…So, Dear Readers, here is a flashback to the writing of CNC0’s yesteryears)
Oh, dear. I guess I’ve done it, again. I’ve broken my fingertips on shards of glass. I’ve seen the statistics and learned to hate numbers. Yes, sticks and stones will break my bones. But, there are words that will really hurt me. I saw her pulled down by a pack of wolves; saw the blood on their teeth. I’ll be smarter than her, my hood is black. They will let me pass on to the forest, on to the path up the mountain. I will step on speckled stones. They are the souls of men. So much prettier than bones. Seven pairs of shoes. Seven. Seven. Seven. A magician throws up a golden glass bauble. That no one will catch, but cannot break. I hit the floor and shatter. Here is how it feels: like falling for the precious, like Susan awaking on the train, like Rose in the alternate world and Who is gone, like the blessed child who sees the million candles. I will meet you in the tower or at the bottom of the well. We will lie to one another. You will promise a trip to Waiora. I will promise a trip to Aalu. We will dance around the obvious. A waltz and then a salsa. You will warn me to listen to the singing bones. I will ask you to listen for the Bird’s whistle. We will stare down each other, believing the other to be the real one. The sun rises. The sun also sets. I grow bored. Sort out these seeds. Get three golden hairs. Drain the lake. I’m tired with riddles, I’m sick of games and allusions to grace. What if it was painted in a day? Doesn’t make as good a lesson. I wish you would just say what you mean. Spit it out!
Let me know which path to take. Let me know where he is. Tell me that he is alive. Tell me that he is dead. I am turning to stone and the not knowing is my Medusa. Wasn’t I clever enough? Wasn’t I brave enough? I deserve… Okay, you got me. I made that one mistake. I said I. I should have said we, I should have known that he belonged to us all. They all did, they all do, but they should never belong to you. I guess I better go, so just say those words, but please remember to hurt me. Make it sting; make me bleed, because this will be my last sensation, my last chance to break. You will say it and I will be ice, the snow queen, the woman in the waves. You smile, say nothing, and hand me a speckled stone.
How do we know we’re headed in the right direction?
I took the path of needles
and when the wolf bared its teeth at me
I thought that
everything was going to be alright because wolves, wolves only devour in fairy tales.
And when I wanted to tell you that I thought I might be in love with you, I didn’t because it was foolish and I was foolish too many times and sometimes I think about you and it’s like being underwater and hearing music and only the fish can understand the words.
And there is this story
about the water of life
and you have to walk up a mountain of broken glass
and past all of the pebbles
that are the souls of men
and you can’t turn to them,
you can’t ever turn to them or you’ll just be a stone, too.
And I thought about how I wanted to taste your skin. How I wanted my mouth to meet yours. I thought that falling was the hardest thing. But it isn’t really. The hardest thing is that sometimes you can’t stop falling. You just pirouette through the air forever and you never once hit the ground.
There are stories about
girls who get turned
into trees, into sea foam,
In tales, there is always
the divine moment when
everything is returned to
everyone. The sleeper
wakes, the lover’s
eyes are replaced, the hands
cut off return without even
the ecstatic pain of regrowth.
Sometimes I almost call you up and say that I like the way your name feels in my mouth. It tastes sharp and vibrant and like the first gulp of air after nearly drowning. I never do though and eventually this won’t matter.
The fairy tales that frightened
me most as a child
were never the ones about
wolves, about witches, they
were the ones about paradise.
They were the ones about people
who spend one night
there and return to the world
and find that one night is a thousand
years and everyone loved is
dust and your name,
no one remembers how
your name tasted on my tongue the one time I was dreaming and I told you I loved you. I woke up and forgot that I hadn’t really done that.
(And now for something a little different…A flash fiction retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales… This is in honor of my beloved M.R.)
The soil here is rich and thick. Roots run deep. I used to walk here when I was a young girl. That was before I killed my brother. I killed him for an apple.
My mother married his father when we were both so young. We used to play in the hills, running and jumping and rolling down the slopes in laughter.
Years passed in the happiness of children who cannot comprehend the monsters beyond those that exist in the colors of nightmares. This was until one fall. The apple my brother held was so red and so shiny and so perfect. Mother told me I should ask him for it. I asked to share it. No words from his mouth. I asked again: brother, brother, brother.
Mother told me to hit him on the ears for not speaking. I hit so soft, I hit so soft. Mother said that I killed him and we must hide it. That it must be kept it a secret between our lips. No words to father. No secrets told to the forest.
I watched her cut and cook, step father ate, he laughed, and ate some more, throwing the bones to the floor. And where is my son? Oh, he is visiting Aunty, so old and she needs some help.
I picked up the bones, white and clean, wrapped them in the blue silk handkerchief, and I buried my brother beneath the Juniper tree.
That boy was always taunting me. His eyes spoke of the woman before me, the one my husband had truly loved. His voice was poison, leaking into my heart and killing me. I didn’t mean to hurt him so, it was rash. He reached into the wooden chest for an apple. And, of course, he chose the loveliest one, red and smooth. I slammed the lid down, an instant without thought.
I shouldn’t have laid that horror upon my daughter, I wasn’t thinking. To see her eyes grow so large and the hate that spewed from my mouth, words crawling up my throat like snakes.
I cut up, oh, and cooked, how…. Sometimes I catch myself sobbing as I stare out the window at the Juniper tree.
Sometimes I think of my first wife, she had a voice like birdsong. When she died, I knew I’d never love another. My son needed a mother. That’s the way that I explain the deceit to my love in my mind. I wish I could go back to when we were so young and stealing kisses beneath the Juniper tree.
When I fly, I am free. My sister gave this life to me. I go to the goldsmith and I burst forth with a song that is the truth.
My mother, she killed me, and my father, he ate me, and my sister, she picked up my bones in silk and she buried me far beneath the Juniper tree. And now what a fine bird I am!
The goldsmith smiled at my song, words he could not hear, and gave me a golden chain.
I sang to the shoemaker for a pair of red shoes.
I sang for the millers to gain a millstone, heavy and heavy.
To the Juniper tree, I bring gifts. Chain to drop around my father’s neck. Shoes to drop at my sister’s feet. And a gift for my step mother, heavy and heavy. So I sing from the Juniper tree.
We married so young and longed for children, but none came and none came.
I would cry beneath a tree, I would beg for a baby, and none came.
One fall, I peeled an apple there, red and sparkling; I cut my finger, blood on snow. A child like that, I would love, and one came. I saw him as I died and he was beautiful.
My husband buried me beneath the Juniper tree.
(as always kittens: everything here is copyright CNC0)
1.) Why when an author has huge success with their first book is there second novel so routinely badly reviewed?
Two of my favorite novels are The Autograph Man by: Zadie Smith (and, why fault Smith for so wonderfully going away from the intergenerational saganess of White Teeth—which don’t get me wrong is a lovely book, funny and beautiful, and was adapted delightfully by the BBC—to try something really quite different.) and the amazing The Little Friend by: Donna Tartt. The Little Friend is a gorgeous book. Did I identify with it because the main character was so perfectly constructed out of things I too love (any little girl obsessed with Shackleton and Houdini has to be close to my heart)? Yes, absolutely, but I also found it to be so perfectly constructed that it made me want to cry.
2.) When will there be a really good (i.e, actually enjoyable to read and not completely full of scholarly dryness) academic book done on subterranean fantasy?
In particular I want something that covers the Subway fantastic of recent years: King Rat by: China Mieville, Neverwhere by: Neil Gaiman, the Hungarian film Kontroll (trust me I can make a very excellent argument as to why this great film fits into subterranean fantasy), etc. If there is such a book, let me know about it…Or, if there are any subterranean fantasy novels that I should check out, I am all ears (and wouldn’t that be something frightening? A person/ creature who was all ears? It could hear EVERYTHING!!)
3.) And speaking of China Mieville (which apparently I am never not doing): why is the man so amazing?
His books are each so distinct and so well created. How can someone go from a children’s fantasy novel (UnLunDun) to a truly glorious mash-up of noir and fabulism (The City and the City) to an excellent sci-fi dissection of truth and language (Embassytown) and on and on and I haven’t even mentioned quite a few books here?
4.) In the vein of UnLunDun, why am I so fascinated by stories of contemporary people who end up falling into fantastic worlds and why am I equally fascinated by the ways in which these types of books diverge?
There’s the person who is taking/ falls into a completely separate world in the vein of Alice in Wonderland, the Oz books, Peter Pan, UnLunDun, etc and then there are the ones where the protagonist learns of worlds that exist within our own such as the Harry Potter series and I could argue that Stardust fits into this category versus the other. I think my fascination probably stems back to an early fascination with fairy tales that were centered on children stolen away to the land of fairy, etc. Or, perhaps, on my over watching of Return to Oz (one of the greatest literary adaptations to film. Ever. I will fight people on this one, if I must).
5.) And perhaps the most important question: Why am I rambling on about these things and letting them fill up my head?
This is actually the simplest to answer and in just two words: MFA applications.