The Prince Enters the Forest


full of courage and promise like the geese gone away,
his horse trembling beneath him on the trail of burr.
He cannot, despite all that he will spare her,
bring his thoughts from her continuous sleep, so he prays,

now and again embarrassed by her,
imagining her dress half opened from decay,
the coat of dust at her lips–which will he touch first?–
her sewing hand fallen like a bird from its cage,

the red bead still fluttering on its bill.
Will he kiss her lids or raise them
and touch each astonished iris, shrunken and still?
Will she sleep on and on in her kingdom of thorn,

or will the world catch in her heart, in his mouth,
and rage like the geese overhead, warring south?


Henri Cole, The Marble Queen, Atheneum, 1986.