Archives for posts with tag: fairytales

Someone called my name on the stairs
by Debra Kaufman

kindly, as if to tell me supper was ready.
It was so quiet that day—
my brother napping, my sister away—

I floated down the dark, narrow stairwell.
We lived with our grandmother
and the ghost upstairs who hovered whenever

our mother read us fairy tales.
Once upon a time meant the story truly happened
long ago somewhere far, far away.

The world was fluid then,
only a veil separating here from there,
fireflies and fairies equally alive.

When I got to the kitchen I asked
my mother why she’d called me.
She said she hadn’t.

It must have been Jesus, I said.
Before I could wonder
what He might have wanted,

she laughed. The air crackled,
a mirror cracked,
and the magic flew off in a puff of dust.

IMAGE: Listening by CDD20.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother read fairy tales and Bible stories to my siblings and me, a gift I treasure. The stories were as real to me as the rest of my life; only time and miles separated Jesus and Rapunzel from me in our home in rural Illinois. I was about six when I heard my name called, and the memory—the awakening—is a deep, mysterious well I still draw on in my writing, dreaming, and psyche.

debKaufman2022ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Kaufman is the author of the poetry collections God Shattered, Delicate Thefts, The Next Moment, and A Certain Light, as well as three chapbooks, many monologues and short plays, and five full-length plays. Recent poems appeared in Poetry East, North Carolina Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, and Triggerfish Literary Review. She recently produced Illuminated Dresses, a series of monologues by women, in Raleigh, North Carolina, and adapted Paul Green’s 1936 antiwar play Johnny Johnson. Visit her at
Journeybread Recipe
by Lawrence Schimel

“Even in the electric kitchen there was
the smell of a journey.”
–Anne Sexton, “Little Red Riding Hood”

1. In a tupperware wood, mix child and hood. Stir slowly. Add wolf.

2. Turn out onto a lightly floured path, and begin the walk home from school.

3. Sweeten the journey with candied petals: velvet tongues of violet, a posy of roses. Soon you will crave more.

4. Knead the flowers through the dough as wolf and child converse, tasting of each others flesh, a mingling of scents.

5. Now crack the wolf and separate the whites–the large eyes, the long teeth–from the yolks.

6. Fold in the yeasty souls, fermented while none were watching. You are too young to hang out in bars.

7. Cover, and, warm and moist, let the bloated belly rise nine months.

8. Shape into a pudgy child, a dough boy, lumpy but sweet. Bake half an hour.

9. Just before the time is up–the end in sight, the water broken–split the top with a hunting knife, bone-handled and sharp.

10. Serve swaddled in a wolfskin throw, cradled in a basket and left on a grandmother’s doorstep.

11. Go to your room. You have homework to be done. You are too young to be in the kitchen, cooking.

IMAGE: Red Riding Hood and Wolf apron, available at

Lawrence Schimel 2014

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lawrence Schimel (New York, 1971) writes in both English and Spanish and has published over 100 books as author or anthologist, including two poetry chapbooks in English, Fairy Tales for Writers and Deleted Names (both from A Midsummer Night’s Press), and one poetry collection in Spanish, Desayuno en la cama (Egales). He has twice won the Lambda Literary Award (for First Person Queer and PoMoSexual: Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality), as well as the Independent Publisher Book Award, the Spectrum Award, and other honors. His stories and poems have been widely anthologized in The Random House Treasury of Light Verse, The Random House Book of Science Fiction Stories, The Mammoth Book of Fairy Tales, Chicken Soup for the Horse-Lover’s Soul 2, The Incredible Sestinas Anthology, Weird Tales from Shakespeare, and many others. He lives in Madrid, Spain where he works as a Spanish->English translator.

Little Robber Maidens
by Elizabeth Kerper

“I always sleep with the knife,” said the little robber maiden. “There is no knowing what may happen.”
—Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen”

Little robber maidens sleep with knives in hand
and make friends by force. Little robber maidens
are not lonely. The little robber maiden is my sister,
walking to the El from a midnight showing
of the Rocky Horror Picture Show—my little sister,
five-inch heels dangling from her index fingers,
fallen leaves plastering the sidewalk like open palms,
two drunk guys on the corner reaching out, asking
what party she’s going to, if they can take her home after.
The little robber maiden is my sister when she answers
Invite-only, boys, laughs, thinks, I could break your nose
with the sole of this shoe and not even feel bad.
Little robber maidens are not lonely.

Little robber maidens do not know how to be lonely,
only headstrong and fierce like the Lapland winter,
like the Chicago November when my sister is born.
The little robber maiden is me, three and half years old,
waiting until the babysitting aunts and grandmothers
are distracted before I poke my scrunched bundle of a sister hard
through the bars of the hospital basinet. She cries out, once, twice,
sharp as a shard of mirror splintering from its frame.
The little robber maiden is me, laying my hand flat
on my sister’s newborn stomach until she is calm again, palm
rising and falling with her beginner’s breaths. Little robber maidens
sleep in robber castle courtyards with laths of pigeons
overhead. Little robber maidens are not lonely.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I recently reread “The Snow Queen,” and I was struck by how much agency and personality the little robber maiden has for a character who plays a fairly minor part in the overall story. She feels like a character who continues having her own adventures even after the protagonist has moved on and taken the story with her—and possibly better adventures, too.

IMAGE: “Girl with Red Shawl” by Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Elizabeth Kerper lives in Chicago and recently graduated from DePaul University with a BA in English literature. Her work has appeared in Eclectica, NEAT, and N/A Literary Magazine, where she is a contributing editor. She can generally be found sitting quietly in the corner with her nose stuck in a book.

by Lynne Rees

Tough women always get bad press.
Cold. Bossy. Bitch. They said
I took him from the arms of his family
when he tagged along after me.

Ill-matched from the start
but I couldn’t resist those young hands
on my skin. And though I’ve always been one for the cold,
a bracing walk, a bitter wind to blow a mood away,
I changed, spent days and nights sweating with him.

The week I went back to work,
I’d come home to find him buried under blankets,
the heating full on, his face as red as chestnuts,
not a scrap of housework done. Windows steamed
from his heat, his breath, his feet.
I slept in my own spare room

when I couldn’t stand his body’s furnace another night
while he spread hot and moist across my cool, white sheets.
The stench in the morning made me gag,
throw the windows open to his moans,
the condensation, the flowering of mould.
So don’t tell me the old seduce the young.
He took me all the way.

The day I found him gone, I wept for joy,
for the cool setting on the shower,
the welcoming cold of the lavatory seat,
and then for fear of being alone. The bleak
expanse of mattress when I woke, a silence
that could decorate the walls.

It’s months and I still miss the things
I grew to hate. Warm hands around my face.
At night, his heat rising against my spine.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The re-visioning of myth is something I began to explore while studying for my Master’s degree in the late 1990s. Giving voice to the women in these ancient stories seemed to help me find my own emerging voice as an apprentice writer and also discover a certain amount of self-belief as a woman.

IMAGE: “The Snow Queen” by Edmund Dulac (1911).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Rees was born and grew up in South Wales, UK. Novelist, poet, life writer, editor, and psycho-geographer, her most recent book is Real Port Talbot (Seren 2013), an upbeat and offbeat historical and journalistic exploration of her hometown. She is joint editor of the long-running journal, contemporary haibun online and blogs weekly on life, food, and writing as “the hungry writer” at

by Gail Griffin

Too hot, too cold, just right.
Golden hair, golden mean.
Simple as porridge.

Too hard, too soft, just right:
a mattress-testing primer.
Always the neat trinities,

even the bears.
Middle way, perfect fit,
the eternal just right.

Listen to me: I am a girl
who sought bears. A yellow-
haired girl who wanted bear

in her life. Wanted bear life:
deep greasy grain of it,
sharp brown smell.

Bear snout and snuffle,
lumber and huff, moony
arc of claw and tooth.

I stalked those rooms
that reeked of them. Sniffed
and licked, marked the place.

Then I slipped myself like a fish
into that great mouth, closed
my girl-blue eyes, and waited.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  Something always bugged me about the Goldilocks story: first, the girl’s audaciousness, and second, the tiresome emphasis in our culture on avoiding what are defined as “extremes.” Those two seemed to be at odds with each other: Goldie is not exactly doing what is “just right.” I wanted her to speak in a way that would unearth the wild thing in the little blonde girl.

IMAGE: “White Bear” by Theodor Severin Kittelsen (1912).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Griffin is a poet and nonfiction writer living in southwestern Michigan. Her last book of nonfiction was a study of a student murder-suicide on the campus of Kalamazoo College, where she taught for 35 years. Her poetry, essays, and flash nonfiction have appeared widely in journals and anthologies. She is retired now, working on a memoir of widowhood and survival.

by Molly Meacham

Mother, their fingers press soot
into my skin.

I dream of lentils in ashes,
of dress-blooming trees in graveyards,
of pigeons sacrificed, split, and read.

I sit by the hearth,
smoke, sift through the cinders.
I think of selling organic dresses,
of performing pumpkin-to-carriage tricks.
It is not enough to sing by windowsills,
to water your grave with salt.

I am an elegant ex-maid:
pink dishpan hands, cracked fingertips
gloved to the elbow for satin touch.
He took the covered hand in marriage.
My fingers ache in sleep—
the sting of soap on stone.

He is so charming that I must scour
for each long blond straw
that has swept our bedroom floor.
He wears gold cufflinks
and the most elegant apron strings
around his neck.

My shoes have cracked like any cheap window
under the body of a woman.

He made me a book.
He made my spine ache.
I am painted—so many formal portraits
with flowers and birds framed by gold.
I am a precious heaviness
hanging in air.

I want to fall from his hands.
I want the pumpkin
to crack. I want his hands
to pull me out still kicking.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I do look to fairy tales and mythology because there is a great deal of nostalgia for me, but I am bothered when I look at the myths and stories I enjoyed as a child. Part of me feels like I want to explore how I would feel as these characters. I predominately choose female voices and free verse, but I will vary from time to time.

IMAGE: “Cinderella” by Edward Burne-Jones (1863).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Molly Meacham is a writer and performer. She has featured in Germany twice with the Speak’Easy Ensemble directed by Marc Smith. She is a writing and performing member of the Chicago Slam Works House Ensemble. She has had poems published with journals including, The Foundling Review, The New Verse News, and Right Hand Pointing. She co-edited Write Bloody’s Learn Then Burn Teachers Edition. She teaches in a Chicago Public School the rest of her time.

by Patrick T. Reardon

I answer the door. The bear is there. He says, “Fear not.”
He is cold and wants a fire to sit by.
In he comes.

Snow White raises her eyebrow as we brush the snow off his fur.
We play with him. We tickle him. We cover his eyes with our small hands.

He leaves in the morning.

And comes back each night during that long winter.
Mother likes him.

“I must go away,” he says in summer. “A wicked dwarf is trying to steal my treasure.”

Some days later, my sister and I find the dwarf caught in a tree by his beard.
We cut the beard and free him. “My beautiful beard!” he yells.

All summer, we find the dwarf in one danger or another in the forest and save him.
He is always angry with us.

Now, he tells us the bear is going to kill him.

The bear appears.
The dwarf says,
“Eat the girls!”

The bear kills the dwarf with a single swipe of his claw.

Snow White raises her eyebrow as the bear turns

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The Rose Red and Snow White story is one of nearly 300 legends and folktales in the original two-volume edition of the fairytale collection by the Brothers Grimm, published in the early 19th century. Anyone familiar with the story will notice some liberties I’ve taken with the tale, especially with its ending. The Snow White of this tale, by the way, isn’t the one of the Disney movie. That Snow White is in another story.

IMAGE: “The Little Rose of Lyme Regis” by James McNeill Whistler (1895).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon is the author of five books. His “Open Letter to the Archbishop-Elect” was recently published in the National Catholic Reporter and Crain’s Chicago Business. He writes frequently for the Catholic magazine Reality in Ireland.

by Jennifer A. McGowan

She had the smallest waist,
so how the queen could lace her tighter
taught us a lot about hate.
My brother dwarfs unlaced her,
but not before my breath also stopped.

She had the cleanest hair,
and it shone—a hundred brush-strokes
every night. When the queen
gave her the poisoned comb,
it told us a lot about envy.
My brothers washed her in wine
and she gasped, but not before
my limbs also grew heavy.

She had the sweetest breath,
so we didn’t know about the apple
till the prince persuaded us
he knew more about love,
and we let her go.

At Christmas now,
an owl brings me bright ribbons.
A raven, a lock of hair.
A dove, sweet fruits.
I chase dust-bunnies. My brothers
work to craft her children toys.

Because of what we learned
there is no bitterness.
Because of what we saw
there is no sorrow.
We are simple men,
but we do know something
about love.

SOURCE: First published in Focus

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am interested in the liminal and the unvoiced; hence the dwarfs in Snow White. Myth has been my playground since a very early age: one of the first books I remember having and cherishing was a book of mythology, with Bellerophon and Pegasus on the cover. Inspiration comes to me in a voice, a ghost, or a phrase, which I then race to capture.

IMAGE: “Symphony in White No. 10” by James McNeill Whistler (1862).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer A. McGowan and obtained her MA and PhD from the University of Wales. Despite being certified as disabled at age 16 with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, she has persevered and has published poetry and prose in many magazines and anthologies on both sides of the Atlantic. She won the Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize 2014, as a result of which her first full-length collection, The Weight of Coming Home, will be published in 2015 by Indigo Dreams Publishing. She has also been Highly Commended in the prestigious Torbay Poetry Competition and the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition. Life in Captivity and Sounding, her pamphlets, are available through Finishing Line Press. Her website, with more poetry and examples of her mediaeval calligraphy, can be found at and handwritten versions of her poems can be purchased at

What Was the Wolf But a Woman, or
When Eating Sustains More Than (a) Life
by Paula J. Lambert

The cap was red, perhaps.
But what would peasants know of red?
Beets—the purple juices.
Apples? But when living a life
only shades of brown,
wouldn’t green be just as lovely?
And wouldn’t something as sweet as
apple be brought to the king
on silver trays?
(What would a peasant know of silver?)
There is, of course, the red of blood
that which comes when one dares to eat
even rotten apples
or to lick silver
but that red, spurt and ooze, turns slowly
the color of beets and then
the color of only kings’ fields. (How could
any peasant know earth so black
it offers food? There is only brown turning
that ugly beige as it cracks its way
to the ecru of bone.)
So. The cap was red or it was not red.
The cap was a cap or it was an open door
but most surely that girl was hungry.
And what she took to the hag
could not have been cream, the bread
most surely not galette, no apples
you see, nor sugar, nor milled flour
unless that red was indeed the sticky sap
of weeping beets, but the girl then could never have
gone to greet a wolf. What was the wolf
but a woman starving for wisdom—
there, the hag—
and a woman whispering prayers for
something like youth (really, just an ending
) and there—that’s the girl, that fountain
of half the wolf’s desire. The wolf
well she is teeth, and teeth bite.
They chew, do not know fear and don’t
take lives. Teeth save lives. And when you
have teeth, there is no need for a huntsman
added later
mon dieu!
by men who write things down
because they cannot remember.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I think of this poem as a feminist (interpretation of) a fairytale. The poem, based on “Little Red Riding Hood ” (“Little Red Cap”), originally a French peasant story, has much to do with socioeconomics related to misogyny. I hope it says that all women are powerful.

IMAGE: “Confetti Rain” by Del Kathryn Barton, represented by the Karen Woodbury Gallery.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paula J. Lambert is the author of The Sudden Seduction of Gravity (Full/Crescent Press, 2012) and The Guilt That Gathers (Pudding House, 2009). A residency artist for the Ohio Arts Council Arts Learning Program, she has published her work in numerous journals and anthologies. She is a past recipient of an OAC Individual Artist Fellowship and was a resident fellow at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her MFA is from Bowling Green State University. Lambert currently resides in Dublin, Ohio, with her husband Michael Perkins, with whom she operates Full/Crescent Press, a small but growing independent publisher of poetry books and broadsides.

by Jennifer Finstrom

At first, she is certain that she dreams.
But the night is so vivid and her senses
sharp as a god’s. She scents the perfume
of oak, the spice of pine. Leaf mold
explodes beneath her bare feet, and
the moon is high, watching. It is late.
In her dream, she leaves the door
open and takes to the forest path,
occasionally startling at the sight
of something moving nearby, the shadow
of an enormous wolf that seems to be
pacing her. The moon is a mute witness.
It will say nothing when she shivers
out of her night-shape and shakes
her head, amazed. When she returns
to her bed, she lies on top of the sheets,
curled on her side. The huntsman’s arm
drops over her hips. He holds her there,
safe beside him, for the remainder
of the night in her own skin.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Both myth and fairy tale have been great influences on my work for longer than I can remember. I feel that both are living things and that they can never be exhausted: they will always have something new to say.

IMAGE: “Little Red Riding Hood” by Daniel ZenderPrints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Finstrom teaches in the First-Year Writing Program, tutors in writing, and facilitates a writing group, Writers Guild, at DePaul University. She has been the poetry editor of Eclectica Magazine since October of 2005, and her work appears in After Hours, Cider Press Review, Midwestern Gothic, NEAT, and RHINO, among others. In addition, she has a poem forthcoming in The Silver Birch Press The Great Gatsby Anthology.