Archives for posts with tag: fairy tales

by Sue Barnard

A small town in a faraway nation
had a terrible rat infestation,
about which the mayor
appeared not to care
(to the townspeople’s rage and frustration).

The plague had become so acute
that the townsfolk were quite resolute:
“We must do something here!”
Then who should appear
but a man in a weird coloured suit.

“I see you’ve a problem,” said he.
“Now listen: if I guarantee
to dispose of your rats,
give me one thousand crowns. That’s
my fee.” Said the mayor, “I agree.”

The stranger, with fingers a-quiver,
piped a tune which made all the folk shiver.
But the hypnotic air
made the rats leave their lair
and leap to their deaths in the river.

Oh, great was the joy in the town!
Then the piper said “My thousand crowns?”
When the mayor, looking shifty,
just offered him fifty,
the piper’s smile turned to a frown.

He glared, strode out into the square,
and, raising his pipe in the air,
played another refrain.
The town’s children came
and followed him – Heaven knows where.

The mayor’s desperate pleas went in vain,
for the children were ne’er seen again.
So the lesson inferred
is “You must keep your word”
and to think otherwise is insane!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  This is a condensed retelling, in limerick form, of the poem “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning (the original text can be read here). The poem itself is based on a medieval legend, details of which can be found here. I was inspired to write this after seeing T.S. Eliot’s epic work “The Waste Land” being given the same treatment by the wonderful Wendy Cope. Here’s her version.

IMAGE: “Pied Piper” by David Chestnutt. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sue Barnard is a novelist, an award-winning poet, and a member of the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing. She has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz – an attribute which once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” She lives in Cheshire, UK, with her husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

by Gaia Holmes

He’s sanded down his teeth,
given up meat
for me.

Whilst packs of his shaggy brethren
rip the bellies out of badgers
and turn rabbits inside out
he’s in the moon-lit garden
planting basil and brassica,
biting back his howls.

He’s become a birdcage on legs,
all ribs and hollow belly.
“One cannot live on flowers alone”
I say as he chews his way through
his second plate of daisies.

He’s a changed beast.
Flesh hasn’t reddened his tongue
since I brushed the oily fur
from his eyes
and rubbed compassion
into his scratchy pelt.

He loves me gently as a lamb.
At night he wears mittens in bed
to buffer his claws,
Gaffa tapes the bite behind his lips
and dreams of blood.

IMAGE: From Little Red Riding Hood by Felix Summerly (1843).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gaia Holmes lives in Halifax, UK. She is a freelance writer and creative writing tutor who works with schools, libraries, and other community groups throughout the West Yorkshire region. She runs Igniting The Spark, a weekly writing workshop at Dean Clough, Halifax. In her spare time, Gaia is a DJ for Phoenix FM, Calderdale’s community radio station. She plays accordion with the band Crow Hill Stompers. She has had two full length poetry collections published by Comma Press: Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed (2006) and Lifting The Piano With One Hand (2013).

by Laura Madeline Wiseman

To touch a curve of pale flesh—
creamy throat of the adolescent
glowing with new light—at day’s end
as the embers smolder and blacken
is to be sat down
in that thrown in that castle
where she sways still:
a young girl
walking the stone corridors,
the once-held visage of the mirror glittering
in shadows, until she cloaked
the gilded surface in cloth: is
to feel it squirm: the throat
closing, choking on the apple
a breathless gasp on loss—jealousy
We would free her from it if we could,
and then we remember the knife
he slashed into a stag, feel the heart
warm and heavy in his bag—how
bowing he offered it to her
and let the girl disappear into the forest
as if she could be contented by the switch,
the lie, and yet for a time she was.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is from my manuscript, Wake. Taking up the death narratives of those gendered female, Wake traces contemporary and ancient myths where death assumes the form of mother, sister, and girlfriend as she meets her female kin—murderers, victims, competitors to match blow by blow. Here, those who are feminine journey to and arrive in realms both dark and familiar as they seek to know what life offers after death has visited.

IMAGE: Illustration from Snow White by Franz Jüttner (1910).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012), and the collaborative book Intimates and Fools (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2014) with artist Sally Deskins, as well as two letterpress books, and eight chapbooks, including Spindrift (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). She is the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has received an Academy of American Poets Award, the Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Feminist Studies, and in the anthologies The Places We’ve Been, Dispatches from the Classroom, Every River on Earth, and The Untidy Season.

By Bunkong Tuon

We were the debris left after the dust
of war had settled on the blood-soaked site
of a genocide. We had no time to weep
when we lost our parents to the Khmer Rouge,
too busy tending water buffaloes
and chasing black crows from rice fields,
afraid that we would be tied up, whipped, or worse.
And when we left Cambodia, we did not cry,
too young to understand what it meant
to be cast out from our homeland.
We simply followed the changing wind blowing
from the West—the one that had brought bombs
to the countryside now carried us across the Pacific.
In the concrete jungle of America, some turned
to textbooks to muffle the screaming inside
as we tried to make sense of how we survived
while loved ones were left mangled on the dirt roads,
in muddy ditches of the killing fields.
Some took to the streets to numb the aching,
joined gangs to claim America.
I was lucky to discover literature in my twenties,
little crumbs in the library aisles
left by Bukowski. His words set
the dark forest blazing as I made my way
to Dostoevsky, Baudelaire, and Celine,
to Hemingway, Jeffers, and Fante,
a constellation of the psychic home
I didn’t know I needed until one evening
I sat in the darkness of the kitchen
and cried for my mother and father.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As a child survivor of the Cambodian Genocide, an orphan, and a refugee, I could relate to the condition of exile and homelessness that pervades the German folktale “Hansel and Gretel.” I dropped out of college and found myself adrift until, one day, I discovered the work of Charles Bukowski in a library in Long Beach, California. It was Bukowski who showed me how to make my way home. I’m also grateful to the public libraries in the world.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bunkong Tuon earned his AA from Long Beach City College, BA from CSU at Long Beach, and his MA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He teaches literature and writing in the English Department at Union College, in Schenectady, NY. His poetry collection, Gruel, is forthcoming from NYQ Books.

Everybody Knows a Wolf Can’t Smile
by Daniel McGinn

A wolf walks at her side. He keeps growing with the shadows, stretching his big bad self across the woods, loping smoothly with a six tree stride. The fur on his back is wild and electric, not soft and pretty like the hair that slips in haphazard curls from between Red’s hood and cape. The wolf has forgotten about the basket of goodies and is fixated on the scent of little girl blood. His paws move silently. His ears stand erect as he focuses on her footsteps, snapping twigs and comingling of breath that joins the girl to the animal. Look at the moon resting on Red’s riding hood as if she is the source of light. Look at the wolf, housed in darkness, hidden by trees, his eyes lit bright and yellow like a blackbird that waits and watches and almost smiles.

IMAGE: “The Woods Belong to Me” by Budi Satria Kwan. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel McGinn‘s work has appeared numerous anthologies and publications, his full length collection of poems, 1000 Black Umbrellas was released by Write Bloody Press. He recently earned an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He and his wife, poet Lori McGinn, are natives of Southern California. They have 3 children, 6 grandchildren, two parakeets, and a very good dog.

by Mary Bast

Yeah, I know you’ve heard of me, probably via H.C. Anderson. Some say you shouldn’t take me too literally. What kind of girl would, #1, be so desperate for a pair of shoes she’d do anything to get them? Oh, have you forgotten a stranger took me in? How do you know what happened to me before? Maybe I was a victim of human trafficking. I was a cute kid and knew how to charm people, so there’s no way I was going without those fancy slippers. I wanted them because no one else had such elegant footwear, and for the first time in my life I felt special. I saw no reason for the demand to not wear them in church. A stupid rule, asking to be broken. #2, do you think I knew the damn shoes would never stop dancing?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: According to Bruno Bettelheim, fairy tales give children a structure to work through shadow issues. As a child, my favorite fairy tale was about a girl, “more than nice,” who was finally given a pair of red shoes she coveted. The shoes made her want to dance and she wore them everywhere, even to church – though she’d been ordered not to. Whereupon the shoes kept dancing, clinging so fast when she tried to remove them, she had to have her feet cut off! Macabre though it seems, what a great metaphor for my shadow longing to not be such a “nice” little girl and at the same time worried about dire punishment if I strayed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Bast writes poetry, found poetry, and memoir. Most recently she’s been in Blue Monday Review, right hand pointing, The Writing Disorder, Pea River Journal’s “Remaking Moby Dick,” and Poetry WTF!? When Mary’s hands are not on computer keys, they’re holding brush to canvas, inspired by North Central Florida’s woodlands, lakes, and prairies.

by Matsuo Basho

Translated by Frank Kuenstler

Once upon a time there was a frog
Once upon a time there was a pond

IMAGE: Vintage frog art by OldPaperAndPages. Prints available at


If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ALBERT EINSTEIN

Photo: Model Twiggy reads to daughter Carly (born 1978).


“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”


Photo: Model Twiggy reads to daughter Carly (born 1978).



by Carl Sandburg

Gimme the Ax lived in a house where everything is the same as it always was.

“The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out,” said Gimme the Ax. “The doorknobs open the doors. The windows are always either open or shut. We are always either upstairs or downstairs in this house. Everything is the same as it always was.”

So he decided to let his children name themselves.

“The first words they speak as soon as they learn to make words shall be their names,” he said. “They shall name themselves.”

When the first boy came to the house of Gimme the Ax, he was named Please Gimme. When the first girl came she was named Ax Me No Questions.

And both of the children had the shadows of valleys by night in their eyes and the lights of early morning, when the sun is coming up, on their foreheads.

And the hair on top of their heads was a dark wild grass. And they loved to turn the doorknobs, open the doors, and run out to have the wind comb their hair and touch their eyes and put its six soft fingers on their foreheads.

And then because no more boys came and no more girls came, Gimme the Ax said to himself, “My first boy is my last and my last girl is my first and they picked their names themselves.”

Please Gimme grew up and his ears got longer. Ax Me No Questions grew up and her ears got longer. And they kept on living in the house where everything is the same as it always was. They learned to say just as their father said, “The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out, the doorknobs open the doors, the windows are always either open or shut, we are always either upstairs or downstairs—everything is the same as it always was.”

After a while they began asking each other in the cool of the evening after they had eggs for breakfast in the morning, “Who’s who? How much? And what’s the answer?”

“It is too much to be too long anywhere,” said the tough old man, Gimme the Ax.

And Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions, the tough son and the tough daughter of Gimme the Ax, answered their father, “Itis too much to be too long anywhere.”

So they sold everything they had, pigs, pastures, pepper pickers, pitchforks, everything except their ragbags and a few extras.

When their neighbors saw them selling everything they had, the different neighbors said, “They are going to Kansas, to Kokomo, to Canada, to Kankakee, to Kalamazoo, to Kamchatka, to the Chattahoochee.”

One little sniffer with his eyes half shut and a mitten on his nose, laughed in his hat five ways and said, “They are going to the moon and when they get there they will find everything is the same as it always was.”


…and a happy belated birthday to poet, fiction writer, and biographer Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) — born on January 6. Growing up in Chicago, Sandburg was the poet in our midst and author of the famous poem that gave us the designation as “city of the big shoulders.”

My favorite book of Sandburg’s is the Rootabaga Stories — a series of magical, imaginative stories with a Midwestern sensibility written for children (but really for people of any age). The book was one of my greatest influences — for its humor, characters, poetic language, and surreal story lines.  I used to borrow a 33-RPM record from the library of Sandburg reading the stories — and was enraptured by his flat (yet expressive) voice reciting these high-flying tales.

Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg is available for a free download at Project Gutenberg — just click this link — and enjoy…