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.
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.