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Cinderella at Fifty


Is it the cheap, red onions you
peel in the kitchen or what
you remember that makes you cry?
Difficult to say. Your household
has fled, along with your husband
and echoes of his once wild
laughter that flew through the room
like a flock of startled birds.
How it was then!
You remember when abuse
had three mouths, when your
loveliness was clad in secondhand clothes,

long blond hair knotted with grime,
heart reeling from scorn. You remember
the fairy godmother's sudden appearance,

the pumpkin's marvelous growth, the fleet
of horses that once were mice, your
metamorphosis from scullery to

splendor, the dazzle in everyone's eyes.

How it was then!
Prince Charming charmed utterly, the

giddy patterns the two of you
cut on the palace floor, the glitter from
glass slippers blinding malignant envy
prowling behind transparent smiles.
And the search, do you remember? The
clock chimes, the frenzy at midnight, the
shapeshifting reversal of majesty?
One slipper left behind, but quickly the
soon-to-be mate kissing your foot in its perfect fit.
The paparazzi went crazy, the world
applauded at such a wonderful story.
Cinderella, you were blessed.


That was long ago and far away.
How were you to know about his drinking,
his fondness for Third World girls?
How were you to know of his
nasty habits in bed, when unable to
bring you to pleasure he would mutter,
"You're nothing but a golden-haired
servant girl"? You would like to
think it was all a bad dream, but for
the slipper you can see above the
fireplace, glass encased in glass.
Something stirs, and there at your feet
a mouse that navigates the stained
floor pauses. Somehow it seems familiar
as it looks up at you,
as if it were saying hello,
as if it wanted to hear you say,
"Long time no see, comment allez vous"
but before you can reply,
It disappears into its tiny palace.


*also published in The Texas Observer (August 2003)
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