I tore off my skin in the moonlight and became a seal, sleek
and noisy. One day a man put his arms around me, and

my arms and legs became tree limbs. It turned out I was
the enchanted princess all along, high atop a glass mountain,

holding a golden apple, but the rest of the story was forgotten,
and alone for so many years, I became a witch instead.

I was a woman who loved science, so naturally, I couldn’t be human;
in some stories, I am a dragon, in others a mermaid, but always

depicted as magical below the waist. Dragons have the advantage
of being more dangerous, with sparkling teeth, but mermaids

too have their lures, their languorous hair and voices.
I was born from an egg, I was born from sea foam,

born inside a plum blossom, raised by wolves. Never the usual mess.
I’ve spent a lot of time in suspicious sleep, surrounded by briars,

kept in coffins. I’ve eaten poisons, lost my appetite for apples, danced
through a lot of shoe soles, turned into a thousand birds.

After all these years I’ve become comfortable with disguises,
with transformations. I’ve become what happens at the end of the story,

after the queen who is also a dragon is driven away, after the long
and uninteresting marriage is over, after the spell is broken.

A woman alone is a mystical creature; if you listen, you’ll hear
the remnants of bells and smashed glass, the fragments of mirrors

kicked to ruin. The air here shimmers with my remains.

Painting by Anne Bachelier

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Jeannine Hall Gailey recently served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of four books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She returns to the Floating World, unexplained Fevers, and The robot Scientist’s Daughter. Visit her online at Webbish6.com.

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