MD Kerr

Sleeping Beauty

A sestina

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All the parts are too well-known:
the spinning wheel, the needle prick,
the early curse, the briars’ wild
sealing growth, the magic sleep,
the prince who pushed through thorns to find
the girl, and that disputed kiss.

Of course, we question first the kiss:
in older versions, was it known
to be the code that adults find
to spare their kids? Did swelling prick
impale the beauty in her sleep,
when fairy-folktales wandered wild

from mouth to mouth, before the wild
lives of adults bent to kiss
a child with stories, then to sleep?
Don’t let them know what we have known.
That worthy spinning, finger-prick
of blood: was that the day she’d find

her thighs awash with blood? We find
much blood in stories, but the wild
iron tides of women prick
the moral mind, like lips that kiss
in constant secret: what is known
denied and carefully laid to sleep.

And then – the nature of that sleep:
the drowsing passions men can find
in women, had we only known?
In times of knights, though, we were wild
with lust – they pledged a courtly kiss,
ideal and chaste; we wanted prick.

Today, the prince is just a prick
who didn’t understand that sleep
denies consent, and whether kiss
or more, was still assault. We find
enough of that in life, and wild
romancing feeds our deaths. It’s known.

But still, the story’s prickles find
a dream of sleep, a self grown wild
in rose-thorned loss is kissed, and known.



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