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It Has Come To My Attention

I have been reading fairy tales recently. I’ll apologize now, because I’m not much of a poet, but there are things for which prose is useless, like trying to pry a nail out of a wall with a Buick, and if I can’t come up with a hammer or a screwdriver, I will make do with a butter knife.


It has come to my attention

that people like me

are generally not welcome in fairy tales.


It’s the talking birds that do it.

The minute a sparrow shows up to pipe a direful warning

it’s all over

down at the first hurdle



The body in the fifty-fathom well

will have to wait

the old woman turned into a hare

the murdered mother in the juniper tree

as I whip out my Sibley guide and look for the entry

with the fieldmark labeled capable of human speech.

For this crime

I have been accused of a failure of wonder

of having chained up my inner child and sent her

to work in the salt mines.


But the truth

(if you really want to know)

is that I have read so many fairy tales

and lived a little bit too long

to be surprised by anything that happens in

the cottages of lonely woodcutters.


I can even venture a guess

as to why the bear speaks with the voice of a maiden

(my heart goes out to her)

and why, when the animal has saved your life,

you will be required to make a harp out of its bones.


These are old familiar mysteries

as love is an old familiar mystery

the dwarf’s name

the contents of the enchanted walnut

the thing which stands behind the mill.

Fairy tales are human things

which we have chewed over

since before we could eat solid food.


But a bird!

A bird that talks!

This is outside my experience

this un-parrot-like fluency.

I have so many questions for it—

Where did you learn?

and How do you make the P’s and B’s and M’s with that small stiff beak?


and most important,

Are there more like you out there?

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


The ending shows that the child's sense of wonder may be gone but the different sense of wonder of the adult is just as magical in its own way. Beautiful!

Brilliant! I thought it was just me who wondered about the random minutea in fairy tales....Wonderful poem!

I feel the need to catch a flock of starlings, train them in a list of amusing phrases (maybe Digger's favorite curses), and release them in your yard. I know starlings are horrible little invasives and wouldn't actually be welcome, so I won't do it, but, well, I just wanted to share the sentiment. I'm the same way--I'm *writing* a story with, in passing, a talking bird, and I spent quite awhile fussing over what sort of sparrow would be a good talking sparrow. Because it's important.

This is my favourite thing today. And today had the sloth video in it.

...I don't see a poem.
I see an unillustrated picture book!
(my imagination supplied the pictures, and it was awesome)

<3 <3 <3

I am in love with this poem. You are awesome. I have felt a similar way so many times.. but i don't have any sort of a way with words. So, thank you. :)

For a butter knife, you have a pretty good poetry implement there. :)

This is a great poem.

I've been reading fairy tales recently, too; bits out of the Arabian Nights. The tale of the Three Princes turns out to be something of a disappointment in the original; the TV version in which I first encountered it gave the princes considerably more character development (and left out the problematic bit where they squabble about who's going to marry a princess, who apparently doesn't get a say in the matter).

The next story along is kind of interesting, though; it claims to be a sequel featuring some of the same characters, but I have a strong suspicion that it started out being about somebody else. This is partly because the plot goes off at a complete tangent, and partly because there's one particular moment that made me stop and actually say "Hang on a moment" out loud, and it goes like this:

There's this Sultan who's been persuaded by his advisors that his son Prince Ahmed is plotting to overthrow him, and that he should get rid of the boy by sending him on an impossible quest (which, this being a fairy tale, young Ahmed aces, requiring the advisors to think up something even more impossible). One of these impossible quests involves going to fetch a particular macguffin that's reputed to heal all disease.

Now, we need to back up a bit. Remember that this story is supposed to be a sequel to the one about the three princes who each go on a quest and bring back a marvellous treasure. One of the princes in that story brought back a macguffin capable of healing all disease and injury, and presented it to his father.

Now: guess which prince that was.

And when his father tells him to go off and get a macguffin capable of healing all disease, not one person thinks to point out that he already has one.

Maybe somebody broke it?

This is beautiful. Thank you.

(Deleted comment)
Anybody who doesn't find wonder in science, clearly hasn't tried anywhere near hard enough!

Edited at 2011-12-14 07:23 pm (UTC)

I'd say you are pretty much a poet. Loved that.

Sweet! I'm partway through a traditional collection of Grimm's right now.

And there's something I wanted to ask you, because I'm not sure if I saw it here or elsewhere, and if it's elsewhere, you might enjoy it too. Woman fantasy author, has written a series, and one of her books has a zombie as the main protagonist. They are apparently awesome, and it's driving me crazy. I figured you'd be my best shot at finding her. Or at least have company going nuts trying to think of who this is. :D

cmpriest? I haven't actually read Cherie's BONESHAKER books, but it seems like a good bet...

Speaking as a poet, I should say that is a rather good poem, actually.

I adore this. I'm not a birdwatcher but the part about the Sibley's guide near the beginning is the part that grabbed me.