Threadbare Shoe Blues

after the Brothers Grimm’s “Twelve Dancing Princesses”

Our true loves await us under avenues of trees where silver, gold and diamonds drip down believably as leaves. Twelve of us princesses, twirling, pretty things, slink out of the castle after proper primp and prink, slide down to the festivities once the monarch falls asleep. No enchanted steps left, no clues for the king’s men. Netherworld tucked safely under elder sister’s bed.

We arrive each night to supper, twenty-four feet finely shod, yet by sunrise Father finds those same slippers full of holes, a mystery, he decides, a human prince must solve. He offers bride and kingdom to create the quest’s allure—a daughter bargained off, though without a word from her. The catch? No ever after for those who can’t be sure. Untie this shoestring riddle in three nights’ time or die before claiming one of us as prize.

In spite of these traps and spies, we waltz on—twelve dancing princesses, refusing to be seen, caught. Not a would-be-wife among us (or a conscience it would seem) we watch, granite-faced as their royal heads fall, drop like rocks before our feet, first, from the bride-to-be’s hidden draughts of sleep, then finally, from Father’s strike

not a prince
to be spared—charming
or otherwise

Jill Michelle

Threadbare Shoe Blues

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