Love Poem Disguised as a Fairy Tale
after Madame D'Aulnoy's The Girl-Fish
In her eyes, the girl she was; the hard
unthinking rifle-shot of youth. They are urgent
as a cat's yowl in the dark rooms of home
where nothing matters but the way fish
lifts wet, unspeaking from the plate.
She is deer now, but for those eyes.
They dance through me, demanding to be spared.
Another life is on her.
She whispers from the soft purse
of her deer's mouth that she still has much to do.
I love her and I always have. I never saw her until now.
I will return to my palace of books
hungry though I cannot eat for thinking of her
as she runs through the bright wood, a spare
change of terror jangling in her girl's eyes,
crab apples crunching like years beneath her feet.
My hunt is over. All I can do is wait
for the changes to cease, for the drifting powers
that drive her to other skins to calm
their churning, for her to find me again
with her girl's eyes and hope
that the woman she's becoming under feather,
hide and scale can see beyond the way
I've learned in her absence to stiffen, like a startled deer.