Is it true that nothing reveals more
about a person's secret heart
than the adult memory of a favorite
childhood fairy tale?
I never understood all the fuss
about princesses poisoned
or rescued from dragons.
Hansel and Gretel seemed like a recitation
of the sorrowful evening news
a serial killer, the ovens, absent parents
a famine, crumbs . . .
Instead of magic beanstalks and man-eating giants
or wolves disguised as gentle grandmas
I chose the tale of a bird with a voice that could soothe
the melancholic spirit of an emperor
helpless despite his wealth and power.
Of all tales, only The Nightingale felt
like a story I knew before I was born
about Orpheus calming wild beasts with his lyre
King David's harp easing Saul's despair
Saint Francis with his curious flocks of birds
singing back and forth in a language of wishing
that even the wolf understood."
About the Author: Margarita Engle is a botanist, agronomist, and the Cuban–American author of Singing to Cuba (Arte Publico Press), Skywriting (Bantam), and The Poet–Slave of Cuba: A Biography in Poems of Juan Francisco Manzano (Henry Holt, April 2006), a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her work has appeared in Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Caribbean Writer, and Thema. Her most recent book is Word Wings, a collection of poems for children (Elin Grace Publishing).
Copyright © 2005 by Margarita Engle. The poem may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.