Perhaps regretting her own mistakes in marriage
the queen asked the fairies to give her unborn daughter
three very specific gifts.
“A woman’s tongue,” said the queen,
“is her greatest weapon. Make her
witty, dazzling, brilliant.”
“Sparkling,” sighed the fairies, imagining
stars and showers of glitter.
“Honesty,” said the queen,
“is a mother’s greatest ally. I must know
where she’s going, who she’s meeting.
Make her motives
“See-through,” the fairies squealed, imagining
cut glass and negligees.
“Thought,” said the queen,
“is the best defense against a bad decision. Make her
“Cold,” the fairies whispered, imagining
ocean waves and the flesh of the dead.
The baby almost froze the queen’s womb.
She lay clutching her abdomen,
screaming for hot water bottles,
The king paced outside
and lit cigars.
The physicians thought the baby was born dead, suffocated
so blue was her flesh
until she coughed and spat up ice water.
As the princess grew, her beauty increased
but her temperature did not.
She sat still and cold on her throne,
eating ice cream and sculpting snow,
breathing frost onto stained-glass windows.
The king and queen blamed it on a curse,
a vengeful fairy who hated happiness
(forgetting that there are no evil fairies,
only good ones
who don’t listen.)
Curses are lifted by kisses, and so
when the princess turned sixteen
the castle was full of suitors
eager to taste clear water become salty flesh
under their lips.
Some barely touched mouths, pulling away
and exclaiming that their tongues
had become frostbitten.
Some clasped the princess in their arms,
rubbing smooth icicle fingers
until she screamed she would melt
under the heat of their lust.
The sun set, and the princess
slips out of the palace
(only roams the grounds
under cover of stars
for fear the sun will melt her.)
Steals away to the darkest corner of the woods
where snow takes months to melt.
Tonight, she is not alone;
there is a wolf, curled up
on a pile of dead leaves.
It cringes like a dog. “Don’t touch me,” it says,
“I’m sick. I’ll bite you.”
“I can’t be bitten,” the princess says.
“You’ll freeze your teeth.” She lays a cut-glass hand
on its fur. “You don’t shiver at my touch.”
“My coat,” the wolf tells her. “Still thick
from winter’s winds.”
The princess wraps her arms around the wolf,
stroking his fur,
touching his ear,
letting his rough red tongue lap at her dripping skin.
At sunrise, the wolf lopes off into the underbrush;
the princess understands, and hurries home
before the sun’s rays turn her to a puddle.
It’s barely past noon
when the doors to the palace burst open.
A single knight in wolf-grey rainment
“I saw you when the moon was full,”
he says, “and fell in love. Today,
I am no dog, but man,
and I can free you from your icy skin.”
The princess leans forward,
anticipating warm flesh on flesh,
mouth on mouth,
tongue on tongue.
The minutes pass, and the knight lets her go.
“You’re still cold.”
“You’re still human,” the princess says.
The knight bows his head.
“I could not love you enough.”
The princess whispers in his ear,
small crystals forming on his skin.
“There is more to love than kisses. There is
ice and fur,
and the moon shining on snow.”
That night, and every night,
a few grey hairs are left clinging to a princess’s skin,
and a wolf’s coat is covered in frost.