by Theodora Goss
There was a little man, I told him.
I gave the little man my rosary,
I gave the little man my ring,
my mother’s ring, which she had given me
as she lay dying. A thin circlet of gold
with a garnet, fit for a commoner.
As I was a commoner, I reminded him.
Nothing magical about me.
Very well, he said. You may go
back to your father’s mill. I have no use
for a miller’s daughter without magic in her fingers.
I’ll keep the three roomfuls of gold.
I walked away from the palace, still barefoot,
still dressed in rags, looking behind me
surreptitiously, afraid he would change his mind.
Afraid he would realize he’d been tricked.
I mean, what kind of name
But he would have kept me spinning
in a succession of rooms, forever.
I passed my father’s mill without entering,
either to greet or berate. I wanted you to be queen,
he had told me, after I said how could you
betray me like this?
You deserve that, you deserve better
than your mother. What kind of life
did I give her?
No, I wasn’t going back there.
By mid-afternoon I had left the town,
I had forded the river, I had come
to unfamiliar fields. I sat me down
by a hedge on which a few late roses bloomed
and from a thorn I plucked a tuft of wool
left by a passing sheep. I spun,
twisting it between my fingers
as my mother had taught me.
She, too, had the gift.
I coiled the resulting thread
of thin, soft gold
around my wrist. Somewhere along the road
it would buy me bread.
Until then, there were crabapples
and blackberries to share with the birds.
And the road ahead of me,
leading I knew not where, but somewhere different
than the road behind.
(The illustration is by Anne Andersen. Except in my poem, of course, there is no little man . . .)