Poem – Cinderella – Anne Sexton

You always read about it: 
the plumber with the twelve children 

who wins the Irish Sweepstakes. 

From toilets to riches. 

That story. 
Or the nursemaid, 

some luscious sweet from Denmark 

who captures the oldest son’s heart. 

from diapers to Dior. 

That story. 
Or a milkman who serves the wealthy, 

eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk, 

the white truck like an ambulance 

who goes into real estate 

and makes a pile. 

From homogenized to martinis at lunch. 
Or the charwoman 

who is on the bus when it cracks up 

and collects enough from the insurance. 

From mops to Bonwit Teller. 

That story. 
Once 

the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed 

and she said to her daughter Cinderella: 

Be devout. Be good. Then I will smile 

down from heaven in the seam of a cloud. 

The man took another wife who had 

two daughters, pretty enough 

but with hearts like blackjacks. 

Cinderella was their maid. 

She slept on the sooty hearth each night 

and walked around looking like Al Jolson. 

Her father brought presents home from town, 

jewels and gowns for the other women 

but the twig of a tree for Cinderella. 

She planted that twig on her mother’s grave 

and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat. 

Whenever she wished for anything the dove 

would dropp it like an egg upon the ground. 

The bird is important, my dears, so heed him. 
Next came the ball, as you all know. 

It was a marriage market. 

The prince was looking for a wife. 

All but Cinderella were preparing 

and gussying up for the event. 

Cinderella begged to go too. 

Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils 

into the cinders and said: Pick them 

up in an hour and you shall go. 

The white dove brought all his friends; 

all the warm wings of the fatherland came, 

and picked up the lentils in a jiffy. 

No, Cinderella, said the stepmother, 

you have no clothes and cannot dance. 

That’s the way with stepmothers. 
Cinderella went to the tree at the grave 

and cried forth like a gospel singer: 

Mama! Mama! My turtledove, 

send me to the prince’s ball! 

The bird dropped down a golden dress 

and delicate little slippers. 

Rather a large package for a simple bird. 

So she went. Which is no surprise. 

Her stepmother and sisters didn’t 

recognize her without her cinder face 

and the prince took her hand on the spot 

and danced with no other the whole day. 
As nightfall came she thought she’d better 

get home. The prince walked her home 

and she disappeared into the pigeon house 

and although the prince took an axe and broke 

it open she was gone. Back to her cinders. 

These events repeated themselves for three days. 

However on the third day the prince 

covered the palace steps with cobbler’s wax 

and Cinderella’s gold shoe stuck upon it. 

Now he would find whom the shoe fit 

and find his strange dancing girl for keeps. 

He went to their house and the two sisters 

were delighted because they had lovely feet. 

The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on 

but her big toe got in the way so she simply 

sliced it off and put on the slipper. 

The prince rode away with her until the white dove 

told him to look at the blood pouring forth. 

That is the way with amputations. 

They just don’t heal up like a wish. 

The other sister cut off her heel 

but the blood told as blood will. 

The prince was getting tired. 

He began to feel like a shoe salesman. 

But he gave it one last try. 

This time Cinderella fit into the shoe 

like a love letter into its envelope. 
At the wedding ceremony 

the two sisters came to curry favor 

and the white dove pecked their eyes out. 

Two hollow spots were left 

like soup spoons. 
Cinderella and the prince 

lived, they say, happily ever after, 

like two dolls in a museum case 

never bothered by diapers or dust, 

never arguing over the timing of an egg, 

never telling the same story twice, 

never getting a middle-aged spread, 

their darling smiles pasted on for eternity. 

Regular Bobbsey Twins. 

That story.

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