content warnings: references to suicide
They told the princess to save herself
from the trials of her tower, or else await
some knight or lady holding greater power.
Left alone in that ring of stone, her thoughts
poured into empty hours to make a first and final
escape. It ended with legs broken, skin burnt,
eyes opened. That dragon taught her nothing
was worth more saving than herself, so she learned
to sing when silence played her pulse like a piano,
to scream when her voice caught on the need.
She tamed the birds and named the mice,
but corvids and rodents are nothing
without a godmother’s advice.
They gnawed raw her silk cries for help
and wove her words into homes,
their tummies filled with knots of thread.
She threw shoes from the window, pelting the dragon
with laced boots and espadrilles. One of each pair
she kept in case someone found the other.
Her hair grew long enough to hang from
but she crowned it with flowers instead,
braiding straw into bedcovers when the gold
thread ran into empty spools. She set them to fire
before starting again. Sometimes she slept in,
put off the day a little longer, resting her beauty
so she could wake up stronger. If some savior ever came
through that forest of ribbons, they would see every shoe
with her verses heart-rhythmed and pinned to the toes.
If they admired the hair she never hung by,
the gentle folds of her dress over hand-sewn scars,
they would see the dragon, sleeping and sated
beneath her window. They would say,
“You never cried for help.
How did you think to save yourself?”
S. J. Ross is a graduating history major in Montana. She finds a joyful rebellion in traditional femininities and reclaiming women’s history. Some of her favorite things include Victorian-style scrapbooks, the smell of army surplus, and happy endings.