Tiny, pale and proud in pearly gown,
Rose White stands hand in paw with bear-prince.
There is a hint of flush high in her cheeks,
but palest ivory is the theme of the day.
This is a double wedding.
Rose Red marries the prince's brother.
They are hidden off to one side, behind a curtain. After all,
the focus must be on bear and bride,
no one should have to remember
the ill-fated count and his chunky new wife.
You see, not all the bewitched become noble bears.
There are those whose transformation
is merely revelation
of the beastly hearts they always bore within.
Rose Red's hand is caught
in the talons of her groom.
Long past the age when he should have been wed,
growling through the ceremony
until the nervous priest must shout to make himself heard,
he clutches Red's poor hand so tight
the blood drips down her palm.
She bitterly envisions
children. Her silken sister
will have large, healthy babies,
perhaps a little furrier than most, but
loving and warm.
Her own offspring will rip their way through her belly,
screaming not for milk
but blood and bone. She closes her eyes
dry and tight against the looming future,
as the priest pronounces them
wolverine and wife.
The ring is barbed.
He kisses the bride.
Bites off her tongue.
Close the book here.
Call this a fairy tale, and exclaim
over the gruesome fancy
of seventeenth-century folklorists.
But I tell you now
this story exists not only in tattered pages
of Grimm's. I have heard it
in irregular pulse-beat and harsh breathing
of women in the back of an ambulance. I have felt it
in swelling bellies below fractured ribs. I can read it
in bruised paper-skin as I slip in
Any medic will tell you:
in these women, it is
to find the vein.
About the Author:
Cory-Ellen Nadel is a writer and academic with an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and feminist literature. This poem was inspired by the Grimms’ fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red.
"Rose Red" © 2001 by Cory-Ellen Nadel. This poem may not be reproduced in any form without the author’s express written permission.