The Narcoleptic Beauty


I heard her magic tale: a spindle-prick,
then frozen in time for a century,
her castle ringed by an impassable forest
of needle-sharp briars, poison snakes,
carnivorous plants, and stiletto-fanged beasts.

Only a death wish would call one
into these forbidding woods,
littered with the bones and crowns
of princes just like me.
Naturally, I went.

Yet it wasn’t hard to get through.
The forest parted before me.
Beasts, snakes, and all, gave way.
When I reached a sun-drenched clearing,
there was her castle, quaint and modest.

All were posed in tableau,
each one deep asleep.
Courtiers, cooks, and handmaids snored
in puffs, whistles, or apneic gasps.
Even the flies on the walls dozed.


I was constantly kissing her awake.
Her daytime naps were so brief
she awoke as if from petit-mal:
no pillow lines creased her cheeks;
her hair wasn’t even mussed.

But sometimes in hypnogogic paralysis
she half-dreamed-half-hallucinated
marauders breaching the castle ramparts,
racing toward her chambers, torches blazing,
burning the tapestries, clubbing the dogs.

Yes, she was beautiful (see tale).
Her eyes were sparkling orbs.
Her peacock-tail lashes fell
onto perpetually blushing
alabaster cheeks.

But, you see, her parents,
the king and queen, had had her
late in life, their “miracle child.”
Not a day passed that they let her forget
how special, how precious, she was.

She spoke in century-old idioms and
dressed like my great-great grandmother.
She always woke to my perfunctory kisses,
though the ritual bored us both.
It was all more than I could bear.


And suddenly I noticed aristocracy.
Our idleness filled me with anomie.
An apothecary monk peered into my ears,
listened to my heart with a glass goblet,
and diagnosed “class dysphoria.”

I left the way I’d come, past brambles,
snakes, etc. Again the forest gave way.
Even the fanged beasts quietly
watched me leave the castle grounds
for the fields and hills beyond.

I changed how I spoke and walked,
fell in with peasants who, of course,
knew what I was but didn’t mind.
Their daughter was awake, not beautiful,
and knew how to spin with a spindle.

I became her husband, a tiller of land.
Our babies came and died or grew.
Her parents, the peasant and peasantess,
passed away. Then we did too,
each one by famine, plague, or war.

Roger Stoll lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has published articles, book reviews and political poetry in Black Agenda Report, Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Internationalist 360, Jewschool, Marxism-Leninism Today, MintPress News, MRonline, New Verse News, Orinoco Tribune, Popular Resistance, Resumen Latinoamericano, San Francisco Examiner, and ZNet. Read other articles by Roger.