Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty

Robert E. Stutts

I begin with a pricking
of my finger on a spindle,
a drop of dark blood
dyeing my immaculate thread
a ruddy crimson.
More blood drips onto my lap,
spattering the white frock.
This is the mark
I will carry on my dressings
for that timeless span
of moonless nights.

My mother scolds me,
“Stop the blood,”
and I wrap my finger
with a corner of my frock,
delaying the life
I have just freed.
She pats my knee
and strokes my hair,
“There, there.”
The other girls skip
around the room,
laughing at my misery.

An old woman takes
the spindle from my hand
and wraps the red thread
around my first finger.
Her face sags with wrinkles,
the skin yellow and harsh,
and I do not want to be old.
I say this to myself,
to the woman, to my mother
who scolds me again.
But the older woman smiles,
“It is the Curse.
No woman can break free of it.”
But I can’t listen anymore;
my finger aches
and my eyes are heavy.

A bush of thorns
stretches outside my window,
reaching to hide the sun.
Sometimes the sunlight weaves
through the cutting maze
and rests on my lids,
threatening to rouse me.
But I sleep on, dreading
the moondark when my finger
will ache again, and the old
prick will bleed fresh.

The sheets that wrap
around my thighs
and spiral across my breasts
are cool in the sun’s buffered
heat. During the night,
the moon burns the fabric.
I know one day the sheets
will become fire
and I will be caught
by my unkindled necessities.
I do not mind the heat;
the thought of the cooling
frightens me.

Someone will come to me,
hesitating in the darkness
behind my eyes. He will feel
the silken white sheets
that cover my tinted hand,
and I know the blood
will flow again. For a moment
I wish the spindle had never
touched me, but I remember
the dark blood is life;
now it is morning
but I dream still
of needles and threads
and the cloth I will weave.

Published in The Round Table, Fall 1990.
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