Thursday, October 1, 2009

Esther and Cinderella

I wrote a poem last year that I have been working on for awhile now. It's a dialogue between Queen Esther of biblical fame and Cinderella. It just received the "finished" stamp of approval from my writer's group, so I thought I'd share it here. Note: Some of the formatting isn't going through on the blog (the italics aren't working for some reason), so it may be unclear who is talking when. Just know that when the stanza changes, the speaker changes. I'll try to fix that when I can.

Upon the lush throne of accident or destiny,
Cinderella stumbles into a new dance, new partner,
Once upon a new dream.
Not a fairy godmother, nor a prince,
But resplendent in regality all her own.

“I, Hadassah, sprig of myrtle
Thrown to a night sky which kept me, impossibly,
Transforming me to Esther,
the star that knew not how to shine.
But how my people wished upon me!
As you dreamed a wish for a better morning.
I held vigil over the night sky,
Guarding my people against
terror that wastes at noonday”

“Transformation can carry you only to
the horizon of imagination.
What wondrous dream led you to light!
Light spills forth with hidden fantasies
The morning wind still dances last night’s waltzes
As mice strut like broad-chested horses.
Magic surrounds you, dear Esther.”

“The glimmer of fireflies draws your gaze from approaching hellfire.
You need not fear a homely reality,
The greatest comfort lies in the hardiest of shoes.”

“In the vilest reality lies a seed of dream
Waiting to turn the world inside out.
I fear not. I water the seed.”

“I know you, Cinderella,
For I wore your slippers once.
Destiny, rising impossibly to fit the arch of my feet,
Settling into them with the weight of a little girl’s fears.
They were shoes for a road I never imagined.
Down a long, lonely hall,
Towards a king, uninvited,
To woo his power to give life and death.”

“A man who would not sweep the frightened little girl
off those quavering feet, even if he could
Lift her into a heaven she had not dared to seek. “

“He had been the royal man of my fairy tale,
Standing before an endless sea of maidens…”

“His eyes fell to me, the color of morning wind,
With magic equally strong!
In his gaze, not even love, but a dream of love,
Yet it held power to sweep away a thousand dagger-eyes
of a thousand stepsisters. “

“…His eyes fell to me,
Eyes that had long forgotten the difference between
The power of a man to love
And the power of a man to rule.”

“Yet at last attired on every limb
To match the beauty of your dreams.
Freed from coarse, colorless poverty
That stifles the dreamer.”

“Free from the disfigurement of poverty
Into the chains of wealth. I had beauty, perhaps,
But what greater beauty than freedom from the interests of men?
Such freedom I had none.”

“I never had much to do with the interests of men;
The interests of women chained my feet.
But in the shadowland of imagination,
Where dreams and distant memory play as one,
I found freedom in a dance.
I spun gladly, and alone.
Until into the dance came another,
One man with an interest.
From his interest grew love,
And in that love I found still greater freedom.
Love and wealth caught me in one embrace,
But the greater by far was love.”

“There lies a greater love you may yet discover.
Beyond the infatuations of a prince,
Beyond the flitting of your imagination,
Deeper relationship draws you out.
The love of my uncle planted a seed-
A love for a people,
That love called me to freedom,
called me to my feet.”

“Or your knees, in tears, perhaps?
Begging the king to intercede on your behalf?
That is the strength to which you call me?”

“Strength to use what power you have
In the name of love, a power far greater.
Your shoes,
Such fine shoes for one who has not learned to walk.
For what time such as this
Have you come to the place where you are?
Fairy godmother, helpful mice, persistent prince,
Always dancing in the misty haze of dreams,
she never takes the lead.
Stepping lightly, lest the shoes shatter,
Piercing her little feet like nails.”

“Fairest Queen Esther.
Dreams do not deceive my consciousness,
Dreams choreograph my dance.
I worked for years, but not to be loved.
Not for a mother’s love, unearnable.
I worked to survive.
I found love in the overlooked, the forgotten,
in dreams.
You scoff at how daintily I step through life.
But here’s the thing. I lived! I loved!
That is my testament.
I loved through the whisper of dreams.
My dreams grew so strong, they made themselves reality.
They became a mother, watching over me.”

“The world has yet to ask you to look beyond your dreams.
Perhaps I envy you for that.
My uncle I have rescued, his accuser the surrogate sacrifice
Like Vashti before him,
Appeasing the king’s peculiar honor…”

“Prince Charming, indeed!
Poetic justice lends its lyrics to a song no heart should sing.”

“…now a writ the king has bidden me write
To protect my people as I protected my uncle.
Sturdy shoes to guard their tender feet,
Never to be dashed against a stone.
They shall shout light and whisper joy,
Gladness and honor will be their song.”

“I saw love that wasn’t there,
And it appeared before my eyes!
The world is really a wonderful place,
If we only imagine it so.
Is it really so hidden from you, Esther?
A world where no one seeks your harm?”

“Cinderella, magic is not to make dreams real,
But to safeguard the dream
From those who would see it end.
To unite, to defend,
To destroy, to slay
Not only the men who would harm us,
But women who suckle vainglories into
Children bent on robbing the dreams
Of their unwanted stepsisters in the land of Ahasuerus.”

“Like the marching army plowing through
the spider’s elaborate gossamer,
Plans enacted too quickly leave dreams in tatters.
If my eyes fell to the perils that threatened my dreaming,
If I tried to vanquish every foe,
My fear would never end.
I would sleep fitfully until all my fears were gone,
With a kingdom’s power at my feet,
How many dreams can fear destroy?
Endless fears lead only to endless grieving.
Is love your motivation, Esther, or fear?”

“Fear for those I love.”

“Do you love them enough to abandon your fear?
To let love lead you into the fairy tale
which promises to transform the world
And, in its hidden beauty, possesses the power?”

“If I had your vision,
Could I also have your faith in vision,
Or is it the other way around?
I cannot dream when robbers break in at midnight.”

“Then I will dream for the both of us.”


  1. Wow. I'm going to have to think about this for quite a while.

  2. I really, really like this. The dialogue feels really natural and I like the way the tension and animation in the exchange builds. I love the characterization of Esther, but I was actually surprised by Cinderella-- I never imagined her having that kind of strength.
    Is your internet connection fast enough to download PDFs? I'd like to send you an article about Jepthah's daughter by my African Americans and the Bible Professor (yay Womanist interpretation! Firefox says "womanist" is not a word.)