Issue No. 13, Summer 2015

The Glass Slipper Speaks
Michael Boccardo

Never had I been alone before, bereft,
inadequate. Orphaned from my only sister.

Our first night out: pirouettes, laughter
like struck crystal. The world a rush

of steps—dancers coupling, parting,
the floor a fanfare of shadows.

Above us, skirts swirled dazzling
chandeliers while our heels clicked out

one waltz after another. Not until
the second invitation did our soles know

the story of silk, brocades
gliding beneath us, stitched with limbs

yet to blossom—hazel, copper—
pigeons hemming the sky into place.

By the final evening, even we couldn’t
help Cinderella outrun the rumors:

a father who fled on horseback,
how she preferred brick and cinders

to linen, the headboard’s scrolled
mahogany. And the worst—her mother’s life

pawned for a frock that fizzed
down her hips like cheap champagne.

If she’d found me sooner, what then?
Who would I blame? The night halved

by magic? Darkness? A spill
of marble stairs glazed with pitch?

I tried to learn the word
stepsister, again and again. Every time

I choked, my mouth a swill of blood
and bone, the nub of a toe like a mouse floating

on its side, fetal. All I craved were petals
crushed underfoot, cathedrals holy

with gold. But once the Prince was charmed
by my arch—five crescents flattered

under moonlight—fate veiled us
in tissue, artifacts shelved high

among rags and rows of scented polish.
Life became a clock whose hands

had stopped. So many midnights, so many
stars splintered by spells. The day

grown dark as smoke. How little we knew
about romance; how the value of illusion

is measured merely by the strength
of a curse. What is left for us now

but to turn enchantment inside out,
sift from its scattered mechanics the warnings

we never heeded? Blindness. The stump
of a heel. Everywhere ashes. Ashes. Ashes.

Michael Boccardo’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Lindenwood Review, Tinderbox, Kestrel, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Best New Poets 2013, The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, and others. He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and recipient of a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, as well as the assistant editor of Cave Wall. He resides in High Point, NC, with his fiance and three tuxedo cats.