Knives

by Jane Yolen


Love can be as sharp

as the point of a knife,

as piercing as a sliver of glass.

My sisters did not know this.

They thought love was an old slipper:

pull it on and it fits.

They did not know this secret of the world:

the wrong one can kill.

It cost them their lives.


Princes understand the world,

they know the nuance of the tongue,

they are bred up in it.

A shoe is not a shoe:

it implies miles, it suggests length,

it measures and makes solid.

It wears and is worn.

Where there is one shoe, there must be a match.

Otherwise the kingdom limps along.


Glass is not glass

in the language of love:

it implies sight, it suggests depth,

it mirrors and makes real,

it is sought and is seen.

What is made of glass reflects the gazer.

A queen must be made of glass.


I spoke to the prince in that secret tongue,

the diplomancy of courting,

he using shoes, I using glass,

and all my sisters saw was a slipper,

too long at the heel,

too short at the toe.

What else could they use but a knife?

What else could he see but the declaration of war?


Princes understand the world,

they know the nuance of the tongue,

they are bred up in it.

In war as in life they take no prisoners.

And they always marry the other shoe.











About the Author:
Jane Yolen is the award-wining author of over 150 books for children, adolescents, and adults. She has published fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and edited collections of folktales. For more information, visit her Endicott bio page. This poem was inspired by Hans Christian Andersenís fairy tale "The Little Mermaid."

Copyright © 1993 by Jane Yolen. The poem first appeared in Snow White, Blood Red, published by Avon Books. It may not be reproduced in any form without the authorís express written permission.

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