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A Poem by Stephanie Parent


I didn’t really want to trek all the way to that castle made of ice

In bare feet, with no coat or hat or mittens

Just to save that stupid boy who was always so mean to me

After that mirror shard landed in his eye but even sometimes

Truth be told

Before, when we were

Innocent but not


I didn’t really want to travel so far—

There were so many places I could have stopped

Along the way

And had a perfectly nice life, or at least

A few good years

There was that cottage with the kind old woman

Who reminded me of Kay’s grandma

(Who I always wished, secretly, was my grandma)

The woman who grew flowers that told stories

And cherries so sweet they soothed all pain

If only the painted rose on her hat had not made me

Remember thorns

I might have stayed forever—

Then came that castle, lined with silk the color of

Thornless roses, roses that would never

Fade. Soporific castle where the princess invited

Me to sleep a sleep so soft and long

I might never have awakened—

If she had not given me the choice, the gold

Carriage and passage to the north, I would have

Stayed. But that gold brought bright eyes my way:

A robber girl peering shrewd from the forest

Her gaze penetrating the frosted window of the carriage

Invading my insides, burrowing in my warmth

She saw the side of me that needed no

Fur coat or muff, no comb through my tangled

Locks, no boy I sought to rescue despite

His cruel words and eyes and heart

The side of me that needed only bare feet

On earth, the sound of rustling leaves and

Burbling streams, the thrill of the hunt

Taste of stolen metal and meat, my

Robber girl beside me—

I could have stayed. I would have stayed, if it

Wasn’t for the way my lover, my thief always slept

With her long, sharp knife. I knew she would never

Loosen her fist from around that wooden hilt

So I chose the snow beneath my bare feet, the

Frost cocooning my hands, while my robber

Girl dozed with her knife inside my fur muff

As I walked, I wondered: Would my cruel boy, Kay,

Always hold that glass shard in his heart, clutch it

Tight like a fist around the handle of a knife? Was I

Foolish to have left what I had left


And when I made it past the snowflake guards, to the

Great ice palace with its piercing spires, with my numb

Hands and feet and heart, I realized just how foolish I

Had been

And when I saw the queen on her throne of ice, her beauty

Frozen and fadeless, I understood how very worthless my

Efforts were

And when I saw that stupid, mean boy, older and leaner

Now, sitting on the floor with his puzzle, trying to arrange

The pieces into a word that did not exist, I believed

We were two halves of the same whole—

Both of us reaching for what should not be reached for

Seeing what should not be seen. We might never truly

See each other, never grasp what we yearned for

The very thought of it made me weep—

Warm, salty tears that swept the glass in my Kay’s

Eyes and heart away

He looked at me, his blue eyes clear and kind and cruel

And I thought:

Perhaps our puzzle pieces will never notch. Perhaps

There is no eternity, no beauty without a freeze; but

We could still walk beside each other, jagged edges

Searching for the way home

We left the frozen fortress, and the ice

Melted from our hearts, from our

Memories, as if it were

Nothing more than

A painful



Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net.

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