Is this what you really want, really? Is this, finally, what you want to be: a dainty foot stepping out of a dainty carriage, a night of stars like diamonds draped on black velvet, stars that blink and tease, clouds that drift across a moon, carriage across the fog and a silver night and a silver dress and that foot always dipping down, skirt lifted just enough, stepping forth, stepping out, don’t turn your ankle—he bows, his hand taking yours: And what a nicely turned ankle it is! Wolfish grin, What big teeth you have!, and is this what you want? To be the girl that disappears at midnight. Who’s that girl? That carriage, that glimpse of stocking, those crystal feet, that hasty flight, the prince who scours the kingdom looking for that rustle of skirt, that turn of ankle, that fleet, flying foot he can’t forget. Have you seen her? Does this shoe fit? To scour: a scrub, a cleansing, an abrasive rub. A disease of cattle. To search, to seek, to peer into corners, to bring what is hidden to light. Try this cottage. Try this foot. A trail of bleeding heels, of discarded toes, You won’t need toes when you’re queen, and is this what you want? The wheels of the carriage spin round and round and if you watch them too long you may lose your way; they will trick you the way circles do, wheels within wheels, spinning one way and then the next, are those wheels real? What do you really want, really?
Once you had a pinwheel. The simplest toy, like the toys of the poorest poor, corncob dolls, skipping stones, and you with your poor whittle stick and pieces of bright paper that spun in the wind, spun only one way, with the wind, never against it, the flapping, whirring sound of it, how you laughed, loved to watch it for hours, and if there was no wind you’d use your own breath, such a simple toy, scraps of paper, a branch from a tree, but someone must have made it for you, must have cut and carved, must have pinned and tested, setting the wings in motion with a flick of finger, a puff of breath, someone who had nothing to give but gave you this, and will someone make a pinwheel for you again? The curtains close; your face retreats; your bare feet folded up beneath you as you sit cross-legged in the carriage, as the horses take you away, you don’t know where you’re going but you don’t look back, and is this what you want? Yes, you think. This is what I want, yes.
Kathryn Kulpa (@KathrynKulpa) is a writer, editor, and librarian with work published or forthcoming in Bracken, Okay Donkey, Lost Balloon, and Women’s Studies Quarterly.
Artwork: Anna Dittmann, Must Be Dreaming