Once Upon A Prison Metal Time… a poem by Denise Garvey

Once Upon a Prison Metal Time….
They feed you fairy tales with breast milk or
formula. It is all formula.

Little girls are really princesses
waiting for handsome princes or princesses to
kiss them better; whisk them off to their perfect lives.

Your mother says your expectations are so high
you’ll never find a prince to keep you in the style
to which you are accustomed.

At that moment you decide to keep yourself
in the family style and better.
Subscribe to a punitive regime of work and savings.

Live in your new home with no floor coverings
while you save for a kitchen linoleum.
Delight in its arrival so much you roll on it (alone) all evening.

Sleep in a thirty-year-old bed until you can buy your own.                                                                                                       Write long letters for years (the only pastime you can afford)
on borrowed furniture in the sitting room where voices echo.

The fairy tale says your parents love you, do everything they can to
care for you. They will not let you bleed all night from a botched
tonsillectomy although the doctor lives at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Then, the prison metal bed in a red tiled hospital
handcuffed to a bag of blood, abandoned, bewildered. Punished?

You get lots of presents, drink one-handedly from a babies feeding cup
although you are seven, left alone after visiting hours with other
imprisoned children, scabbed and burned, cuffed to hanging bags
beside their prison metal beds and prison metal cots.

That first bath afterwards turns terrifyingly red
while the nurse’s aide who bathes you says “It’s ok.”
When you get home, you are handed to the Home Help.

A little whisper, “They nearly lost you.”

The fairy tale says the charming prince will come and make it better.
You long for the apprentice-turned-managing-director you haven’t
dreamed of who works to treasure and look after you, just as you do him.

Your heart is ripped out when the boy next door
holds hands with the girl from down the parks.

Even Cinderella got to go to the ball. For the first time in your life
in the absence of a fairy godmother, you arrange to go to a ball
(and buy the simplest of ball gowns with your own sparse bobs).

Your mother is amazed you are so happy.

So happy, yet with a certain pecuniary sense, you stash plastic boxes of
cold sausages, bread rolls, tomatoes and a bottle of cheap red wine
behind the couch in the Trinity common room to sustain

you and your prince for the night and see the sun rise over Howth.
You walk home wearing his tuxedo.

You kiss a lot of toads.

You find a prince with a silk cravat to share your style now
fully floored and freshly furnished. Your mother says
she has been saying novenas on her knees for you, for decades.

You wake up in a nightmare. Your mother says
she knew from the beginning he was wrong but
“What God has joined together let no woman pull asunder”.

All those fairy tales end in happy ever after. Well into the
second half of your life you know that Happy Ever After is
Total F*@king Bunkum.

You know your own children don’t believe you did enough for them
though you scoured the kingdom for their gowns and finery.
Spent their hospital nights beside them on prison cold floors.

Like the three little pigs (although you only have two surviving children)
they have to build their own houses now, with their own princesses.
The wolves will huff and puff. Walls will topple. Foundations will shudder.

Denise Garvey directs a Maths and English study centre in Galway, Ireland. She has performed her poetry at several Irish Poetry festivals, and featured in an Irish Times review of performance poetry. Her work has featured in THE SHOp anthology of Poetry, New Irish Writing (Irish Times), Skylight magazine and Happiness is Vital. She is working towards her first collection.

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie's first novel, Stillwater, will be released in the spring of 2023. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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