thumbelina in the little tiny hours
I take shelter in the night
warm blanket draped at my shoulders
Not for sleep but for waking.
The clock hand ticks on, my mind
skedaddles like a mouse down the corridor
over twitching legs of crushed beetles and sharp words
through the dust and cobwebs—see how burying me alive gets old?
I gather my blanket, feathers I was never born with
I’m wrapped in an egg I never hatched from.
I’m telling stories I never knew
could be this happy, in this candlelit moment
between the barren earth and the amber glow.
This is what fairies do: they sleep
in our contentment, they try on dreams for size
and raise mischief and bliss in the same breath
and make things sweet. They will take me home, take me back
into the newness and nostalgia
into dreams and nightmares
into safety and knowing
all the while to nurse the little bird of my heart
back to life.
Silver blade sings beneath her ears. Roots
pulled all at once, and some strands
harder to slice than all the others.
She saws through the rest,
cuts short and evens out the ends of the
once-flowing stream from her scalp. She feels
the gathered itch on her arm, hands,
escaped into her overstretched sleeves,
piled and weighted on her lap,
black, raw makings of paintbrushes
scattered, once glistening. Discarded
enough to trip on the floor.
But she hides the evidence well.
She ties the remnants of her boy hair up—
oh there is no joy like a lightened burden.
She binds her breast and takes up the
exchange of armor. Delights in it. Prides
in it, moving gracefully as a wood orchid
in the breeze, watching her back, strength
from years of strategy.
She silences and commands the horse.
Earns allies. Blood murmurs from her,
but she hides the evidence well. Body wages war in secret,
she betrays nothing, but reads weaknesses in many.
Holds calm, strikes fast in the snow, blasts cannons.
Blossoms, another spring of survival,
of lives preserved from destruction.
She bathes in the lake for love of her body
with timing and luck, and no one touches her who may live.
But in all else, she dances with blade, used to the weight,
and gracefully becomes boy. Man, leading into battle.
Dragon, commanding weather and death
and vengeance. But honor holds her in her armor
and whispers through the slice of her sword.
Ah, well done, her father says after ten years, unfazed
at the oddity of the dynasty.
Always knew you could do it, he says, sipping oolong tea.
This is the pinnacle of respecting elders,
my father says, that you care so deeply
that of course your life be put up front for mine.
But of course, it’s just a fairy tale, he says,
for what woman could accomplish so much?
History whispers to me, reflects back in
silver screen and spilled ink and scattered voice,
cuts through page and splintered surviving cries of the past,
gathers itching up my sleeve, fallen stories
by dozens into my lap
in this era without heroes.
I bow my head in silence as I cut my own bangs,
climb, push, stick, swim, strategize, and get stronger in secret.
Destroy evidence daily of stained blood.
Create myself every day, bend gender of characters,
ride into narrative with singing pen and allies.
But when I fight, like the hero of China, I choose:
It will be for my brother, and myself.