Published on Academy of American Poets (

Sleeping Beauty

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.


Copyright © 2019 Nick Flynn. This poem was originally published in Quarterly West. Used with permission of the author. 


Nick Flynn

Born in 1960, Nick Flynn is the author of the poetry collections My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (Graywolf Press, 2011), Blind Huber (Graywolf Press, 2002), and Some Ether (Graywolf Press, 2000), which was the recipient of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award.

Date Published: 2019-01-08

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