Sleeping Beauty

Nick Flynn - 1960-

When Sleeping Beauty finds the spindle
& pricks her finger & falls into her hundred-
year sleep, everyone around her falls as
well—her handmaids, her grooms, the cooks.
Dogs collapse in the courtyard, horses fold
in on themselves in the hay . . . . I’d forgotten
all that. Even the fire returns to embers,
fire’s version of sleep. In some tellings all
this sleep is a blessing, a solution to grief—
no one will miss her because they will sleep
as long as she sleeps & they will wake
when she wakes, no one having felt
a thing. Is this what we want, to take
everyone with us, to leave no one behind?
To find a way not to feel all the days you
are not here? Some days I wish I could
sleep for a hundred years, other days
I wonder if I’ve ever really been awake.
In one version the curse is uttered by
a crone, in another by a fairy. The castle,
in both versions, as everyone falls &
almost at once, becomes overgrown—
wild roses, thick with thorns, surround its
walls, so thick they will tear the flesh of
anyone who dares come close. When I
tell you I’m a wounded animal this is what
I mean—I am the thorn & I am the spindle
& I am the curse . . . no one will remember
the years they felt nothing.

More by Nick Flynn

Father Outside


A black river flows down the center
of each page

& on either side the banks
are wrapped in snow. My father is ink falling

in tiny blossoms, a bottle
wrapped in a paperbag. I want to believe
that if I get the story right

we will rise, newly formed,

that I will stand over him again
as he sleeps outside under the church halogen
only this time I will know

what to say. It is night &
it's snowing & starlings
fill the trees above us, so many it seems

the leaves sing. I can't see them
until they rise together at some hidden signal

& hold the shape of the tree for a moment
before scattering. I wait for his breath
to lift his blanket

so I know he's alive, letting the story settle

into the shape of this city. Three girls in the park
begin to sing something holy, a song
with a lost room inside it

as their prayerbook comes unglued

& scatters. I'll bend
each finger back, until the bottle

falls, until the bone snaps, save him

by destroying his hands. With the thaw
the river will rise & he will be forced
to higher ground. No one

will have to tell him. From my roof I can see
the East River, it looks blackened with oil

but it's only the light. Even now
my father is asleep somewhere. If I followed

the river north I could still reach him.

Swarm

When you see us swarm — rustle of

wingbeat, collapsed air — your mind
tries to make us one, a common

intelligence, a single spirit un-
tethered. You imagine us merely
searching out the next

vessel, anything

that could contain us, as if the hive
were just another jar. You try

to hold the ending, this
unspooling, make it either

zero or many, lack

or flurry. I was born,
you begin, & already each word
makes you smaller. Look at this field —

Cosmos. Lungwort. Utter each
& break

into a thousand versions of yourself.

You can't tell your stories fast enough.
The answer is not one, but also

not two.