There is no stepmother. No weak father
who discards me—
The Prince asked, “Haven’t you got another daughter?”
“No,” said the father “there is only a puny little
kitchen drudge that my dead wife left me.
She couldn’t possibly be the bride.
And just forget about the prince, right off.
Only a woman back from the ball—a drag ball—
women on stage dressed up like mini men twisting
hips, thrusting crotches full of cloth or plastic.
There is a fairy godmother. She is tall and blond,
like in the movies. She finds me in sneakers
and baggy jeans. A face tired from classes and
loneliness. She puffs me in sparkles—pulls from
her bag of tricks a slinky evening gown.
Before a room of strangers I bare myself.
I slip on the dress held up by strings thinner
than capellini, my prickly hip bones
and pliant tummy and wide thighs become
outlined in a delicate layer of sweetheart red.
She put on the dress with all speed, and went.
Her sisters however do not know her, and thought she
must be a foreign princess. They never once thought of
Cinderella, and believed she was sitting at home in the
dirt, picking lentils out of ashes.
I only have enough money for one drink,
which I consume too fast, willing my body
to relent like clay that starts stiff but
quickly softens with kneaded touch.
By evening Cinderella wished to leave.
She escaped so abruptly that no one could follow her.
I retrieve my heavy bag of books and clothes from
the corner of the smoky club. The cold outside
creeps under my long skirt, encompassing me.
My pocket holds the number of a woman
I will never call—the dark ink sinking
into the torn white napkin. I rush to the subway,
grateful that I left my sneakers on beneath the gown.
(I refused to wear the glass slippers.)
When it was evening and Cinderella wished to leave
she slipped away so swiftly
that no one could follow her.
Once down the tower of stairs
I find out I have missed the last train home.
The squeals of the subway have silenced
and I stand on this empty block, at a loss.
And here the story ends.
No lost shoe. No royal wedding.
No happily ever after.