Two Poems—Stephanie Parent


Young woman with a ravaged belly
Demanding, demanding, while the child within is
Only embryo

She climbs walls, fights brambles
Desperate for nourishment
Tears leaves from the earth
Dirt under her fingernails
Devours it all, vegetable and mineral 
Like a feral animal

Not even birthed yet, the babe in her belly
Has consumed her
She is too young, too tender,
More blossom than stalk
Such a violent burden 
Would surely destroy her 

When the garden’s owner claims 
The greatest price
For the woman’s greed
                              (Greed that never belonged to her

A babe so gluttonous
Needs a witch to lock her in a tower
Bind her hair
Deny her power

What else would this babe, now grown, have ravaged
Had she walked through the world with
Tresses loose
Hands grasping
Eyes open?

She would have taken
Much more than a prince’s sight

Better the tower, the stone
Where no soil births leaves with their
Nourishment dearer than

Dangerous growth, long locks, emerald vines

Chop it all down

Or so the young woman who’s lost her babe
The old witch who’s lost her youth
The maiden who’s lost her choice
Her voice

All tell themselves


Strange how quickly you re-acclimate
After ten years melting in the sun
Of the West Coast
Your muscles remember the cold of the East
How to tighten and tremble and eventually
Accepting discomfort
And loss

Like the Snow Maiden, born to that lonely couple
In their lonely cottage
In a land where white flakes blanket the earth
For half the year
She grew out of the couple’s warmth, their desire
Their love
A spark that ignited her into life
But a part of her always belonged
To the cold

You too were born of a couple’s desire
For love
That red, fiery thing they’d never had enough of
Didn’t know how to offer
In a way that didn’t take and take
And leave you shivering

So you ran

So the Snow Maiden ran, with her friends
In the midsummer heat
She leapt over the bonfire
The flames stole her away
Consumed her human spark
And left only the mist that was her essence

So you, too, leapt over bonfires
Till the flames burned too bright
Blistered your skin
And you had to retreat
To that house in the East
Where the desire for love had birthed you

Too much love, too much warmth
A flame trapped in a fireplace—

You couldn’t release your own fiery tongues 
Of desire
Couldn’t retreat into your own 
Bitter ice

And now, in a winter you remember
Wishing you could forget
You let the ice coat your bones
You abandon the memory of sun-warmed sand 
You know, how matter how far you’ve tried to run
How high you’ve leapt
How deeply you’ve yearned

You can never outrun your birthright
                              (Birth burden)
As someone else’s story
Someone else’s wish

You don’t want to evaporate, like the girl
Who came to life from the snow

As long as you live, a part of you
Always belongs to the cold

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net.

photo by Tiko Giorgadze (via unsplash)