SLEEPING BEAUTY: in three acts

1. The curse was caught upon the needle’s point.
The brocade stiffened into marbled folds.
But the palace seamstress who could design
décolletage sure to secure an ancillary throne,
or at least allay a royal boredom,
held to her purpose with a nimble rage.
Still tugging on the thread, she fell asleep.

While below the turret an apprentice crow
hazarded a hasty prophecy,
was stoned by the gardener whose concerns
were never more than weariness
and backache. In drowsy truce,
the two waived differences,
rolled over in the hedge, and fell asleep.

As the king and queen, their modest retinue,
the lean prime minister, the upstairs maids,
the scullions and the scullion mouse
suspended domesticity and without a moment
to enjoy their unexpected holiday,
they turned to tapestry and fell asleep.

But the princess herself, tidy and provident,
given to adolescent habits of expectancy
withdrew to a small sleeping porch, (sheltered
yet accessible) she had prepared against the hour.
With calm alacrity, she spread the cunning coverlet
and counted sheep.

2. Whatever she dreamed was nothing to the weather,
ever the ripe and windless end of summer.
The garden, like a moist presentiment,
abjured geometry and with mossy intuition
redefined the flagstones and the plaster art.
Roots in conspiracy, intersecting boughs,
intricacies of stem and bud sent every trellis
sagging into blossom. Thickening, convoluted,
intertwined, fig tree and quince, vetch and filaree,
the garden was a vine. All fruits were tropical,
as crumbling fountains tumbled
in the still interstices of time.

3. The story spread throughout the realm, through yeomanry
and royalty whose princes galloped straight away to dreams
of chivalrous acclaim. But without code to cover finding
such eccentric shuteye, they reined up at the thicket and discreetly
left their cards.

After a while the tale was lost to greater dragons,
larger grails, became the province of some few
desultory grandsons who remained aloof from politics,
longed for grand endeavors. But they passed, too.
Soon nobody came.

Until a climbing civil servant (anticipating the Baconian attitude)
was commissioned to survey the prodigal garden and incidentally
record the symptoms of the household there. And as he kneeled
in that last weedy place, he could not say what bid him
do unscientific homage to the cobwebs and uneasy bedding.
Which done,

the princess woke, propped on her elbow, pushed back
her dusty hair, began the gramercy so long ago prepared,
paused in the middle, then forgot the closing courtesy.
As the scheduled worm dropped a leaf upon the troubled sheets,
a little flag, in scalloped toothy stitches,
no sharper than the sound of trimming shears
or the now distant shrieking of a crow:
happily, happily, happily
ever after.