We were children, trapped in coddling innocence.
Our future a blurred dream,
our expectations reflecting limited experience:
dappled shadows dancing beneath sun-lit trees,
daisies on a fragrant lawn,
icecream on the beach,
flares that burnt fast-fading holes in our sight,
leaving scars that would not be discerned
until we reached a certain age.
Avidly, we absorbed oft-repeated bed-time stories
which left us believing
that evil was easily recognised,
since it arrived in ugly shapes
and was always defeated.
Only the good were beautiful;
all aches rinsed away by the chaste kiss
of a handsome Prince;
all kingdoms gained by betrothal.
injustice was perverted
by the person who pushed the pen.
Jack trespassed in the giant’s den,
following up his crime with killing and looting,
that he may live out his days
in tainted luxury.
Dick Whittington was assisted by a sly cat,
thereby obtaining his elite position
through deceit and lies.
The unfortunate daughter
of the silly miller who issued false boasts
was locked in a cell
by an avaricious king who wanted more gold.
Rumpelstiltskin offered a tough deal, but the girl
agreed to give him her first-born.
His mistake was in singing out his name, thinking
that no-one was listening.
the entire cast behaved in a shabby way.
As for Goldilocks,
at least she learnt to steer clear
Not all the stories had happy endings.
The Babes in the Wood were buried beneath burnished leaves
by grieving birds and beasts, their lives curtailed by starvation,
The Little Match Girl was taken to a better place when she died,
yet I decry the shuttered eyes that caused her suffering in life.
So many fictions to pick through
in our sheltered realm
where parents swept salve on every wound,
our consciousness trusting that we
were charmed and good.
We would win the Prince;
a Kingdom we would rule.
We never knew that corruption
had mingled with truth
and sullied our very bones.
Let’s scoop away the fairy tales
that recommend a life of greed
and justify the crimes we sweep
beneath our rusting thrones.
The whole world knows that children weep
while mothers die in hungered sleep
and thieves will feed on living flesh
engraving teeth-marks in the bones.
Don’t feed on living flesh,
don’t scrape away the bones.
Live an honest life of peace,
and leave the fairy tales alone.
©Jane Paterson Basil