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Mirror, Mirror

This is what they tell you:
I was a baby with pearl skin, black jade
hair, and a crying mouth
wet and red like ripe apples
in the early morning mists,
the king's daughter once, they will murmur,
still lovely if she had lived
before they show you the greater treasure
of the emperor's little boy,
his tiny porcelain face a perfect mirror of
his mother's splendid beauty.

Nobody understood why
I did what I did.
The gods themselves could see
I loved him like a son, and how I loved
the fragile walls of our home that
trembled in the autumn wind, the fragrant cherry
blossoms that dangled from the curving rooftops
and blanketed the courtyard in the spring.
(How I honored my father excellently,
how I respected his wife as if she had
borne me in her own womb.)

Because they did not know,
they will not tell you of my brother's
first words and how they spoke
my death. Not ba-ba, not ma-ma, but
my own cursed name—and oh,
at that moment my mother's fingernails
began to grow, into the wicked
teeth of a jeweled comb biting at my neck, and
the fraying of my collar's fastening
that twisted in too tightly,
and cold knives to peel sweet apples for
bribing his little tongue,
and all the while he cried and cried
and cried for me.

How glad they were to lose me!
I ran up and up, as far as I could,
while my little brother fell silent at last.
She would have another, I told
myself. She would
have another.

Now the hot sun has painted my skin
with mud, and the mountains have kissed
my hair with snow, and my wrinkled mouth is
the muddled color of dusk.
You may find me here, sitting by
the ricefields when the sun is setting, but
only if you hasten: my time is slipping
like the moon wanes into darkness.

My seven sons have no sister
to cry to. They bring me oranges from
the lowlands and green jade
from the caves nearby,
smiling like their father
and nothing at all like me.

Other Princess Poems:
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
Sleeping Beauty
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