by Jane Hayman


She dreams of rooms

numberless, marvelous

bedrooms, ballrooms

rooms lined with silk

a throne room


with hundreds of candles

burning unblinking

here in this castle

where only

the clocks move.

Her father sleeps in the library

as usual over a book.

Her mother, in the solarium,

catches the sun

as lightyears pass

while out in the stable

the chambermaid drowses

forever entwined with the groom.

She dreams of rooms

without doors

or with one wall missing

rooms that bleed

into other rooms

or that spiral suddenly upward


rooms full of threat

where locks could spring open


at a breath

or the touch of a finger.

She dreams she is taking a bath

in the forest

in a bathtub shaped like a boat.

Over her head

clouds are developing

purple and green, lemon

and silver and black.

The air is fresh,clear

lighted with flickers

foxfire seen at the edge of the eye.

She knows it will rain

it will storm

that she ought to return to the castle

but she is happy playing in the water.

If the prince comes now

he will find her in this dream

in the beautiful twilight

naked, alone and alive.



She’s vanished, lost, gone for sixteen years

just bones and shadow now

pitched into the dark beside her son.

Out in New Jersey somewhere I forget.

I never go there so she came to me.

Age sixteen, pretty and not so sweet.

She looked like me, the way I used to look.

(I’m not sixteen anymore

ever again either, Mother.)

Mother, you’re like a plant —you smell of memory.

Arm in arm with your girlfriend

in that photograph,

the two of you are daisies, spicy with youth.

How did you find me? How do you know me?

It’s years before you leave home, before you marry,

years before I am born

and years, certainly years,

before I walk

in back of you into the dark.



We knew

there was no going home;

we didn’t try.

At night, after they left,

we heard voices:

Your mother is alive.

Your mother wants you.

No directions

no little birds to follow,

only noises in the trees.

There were markers–

twigs like Chinese characters,

leaves waving their flags–


Every day another sign

we couldn’t read.

We had no maps, just stories

but I had my camera.

We can prove it happened.

When the wind rolled in

that last day,

it smelled of her–

barky, bitter, elemental,

old as dirt.

A whiff, a drift

of ginger.

Crashing the undergrowth

like dogs,

we tracked that


it grew stronger.

Then finally –surprise!–

there rose before us

suddenly, like the moon,

a house

where there had been

no house before.

That house!

That cabin in the piney woods!

The house they tell about:

the chicken feet, the gingerbread

the talking cat and dog

the yawning gate, the lollypops

the garden growing wishes–

all of it, all there

and just for us!

Abracadabra, open sesame!

The door unfolded

and she sucked us in.

Reader, you know what happened:

how, drugged on bread and milk,

we fell asleep;

how she turned against us in the night;

how she locked my brother in a cage

and made me her servant;

how, just in time,

I pushed her in the fire.

It vanished as we left,

everything –the house,

the pets, the garden–

even her jewels

turning to earth in our hands.

We never got rich;

we merely saved ourselves.

But look, here in this book

it all lives on in pictures.

She loved my camera

and, Reader, it loved her back.

Here she is

feeding my brother,


posing with the cat,

beautiful again

as she always is in my dreams.



Back at the palace the childless king and queen have gone to bed.

The servants are drinking and dancing —darkness is sweet in the woods.

Mother, stepmother, witch, bitch who has murdered our father’s soul:

you will turn to smoke; already we are heating the woods.

Breakfast for us in the palace garden —double helpings of bacon,

pancakes, strawberry jam. Swans swim by. Bluebirds peep in the woods.

JANE HAYMAN  has returned to writing after a long silence. Past work appeared in The Nation, The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, and many other journals and anthologies. New poems are in the current (Winter) issues of Barrow Street and Margie, The American Journal of Poetry. She has taught first graders to read using poetry by Frost, Williams, Carl Sandburg and Lewis Carroll.



return to Issue  Seven