Poem a Week: Jorinda and Joringel

This is kind of cheating because I wrote this poem months ago. But it’s been a bad week, so I hope you’ll forgive me, whoever you are. I had vague aspirations of getting it published somewhere, but I’ve since decided that I only want to try to publish essays, not poems or short stories or anything else, because the weight of publication makes the creating so much less fun for me, so I’m putting it here instead. It’s also kind of cheating because I haven’t given it a real title, but in my defense, coming up with titles is awful.

Growing up, I had a collection of Grimm’s fairy tales on tape from the Library for the Blind and I listened to it on constant loop for years. “Jorinda and Joringel” was one of the stories on it, and for some reason, it embedded itself in my brain and I never entirely stopped thinking about it. But, me being me, I wanted a version where Jorinda told Joringel to get lost because he was boring, and, naturally, I also wanted some depth given to the witch. Preferably in the form of Jorinda and the witch falling in love. I thought I would write it as a short story, and I kept thinking I would do that until suddenly, finally, I wrote it as this poem instead. It turned out to really only be tangentially a retelling of the story, and of course I made it more about being trapped in a body than in a literal birdcage because again, I’m me. But, anyway, here it is.

You can read the original story here if you would like context.

—–

When you’re a girl, your body
A cage, and you, a nightingale
Without a voice,,
What do you do to survive?

He claims your salvation
As his cross to bear, says
Love, says forever,
But you know better.
She claims your warmth as her due, says
Wisdom, says truth,
And you begin to understand.

You say love and it burns, poison
On your tongue. You say
Please and it presses
Heavy on your shoulders,
A weight you can’t shake off.

When you’re a girl, your body
Unyielding, a stubborn outlier
Refusing to conform,
What do you do to feel real?

You offer as sacrifice your breath,
Your blood, but she
Scoffs, says she has no need.
You offer as penance your tears,
Your sweat, but he
Is too far away, occupied
With a quest for which you have only ever been
The catalyst, never the true goal.

when you’re a girl, your body
An inconvenience, a commodity
You no longer wish to trade,
What do you do to transform?

You say stop and
It feels like relief,
You say no and
It feels like release.
You have always belonged to yourself.

He comes bearing gifts:
The flower red as blood,
The enchantment broken,
The happily ever after.
She says this is not for you,
This was never for you.
You already know.

You rise up, you turn your back,
You hold out your hand.
Her smile is an awakening.
Together, you wield the dagger
Of your power to
Unbecome and rebecome,
Skin shed, flesh unbound,
Monstrous and finally free.

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