Far more than Once Upon a Time,
A lonely would-be single-mom
Wished for a child, and one soon came,
Not in the usual way—but sprung
From golden seed of barley corn
Sold by a fairy. And when it bloomed,
A little unborn maiden stood
Among the flower’s velvet stems,
So small, a shell served for her bed.
She slept beneath a counterpane
Of rose leaves, till a thieving toad
Abducted the unknowing child
To make her the unwilling bride
Of darkness in an underworld
Of labyrinthine tunnels where
A blind mole made his fetid den.
Or else a couple who bemoaned
Their childlessness conceived a son
Curled like a cashew in the womb,
A shadow pulsing like a drum
No bigger than his father’s thumb,
Like pictures on a sonogram,
And in but three months, out came Tom.
Now dressed in cobwebs, thistledown,
And apple rinds, our little Tom
Mourns being traded for the coin
That made his parents prosperous
But him a tiny beggared orphan;
While Thumbelina, like swansdown
Floats in the wind on borrowed wings,
Still haunted by the wedding gown
Woven by spiders her dark groom,
Clad in black velvet, dressed her in.
Now she’s escaped that narrow tomb,
Riding a swallow pierced by thorns
Who resurrected from the dead
To fly her to where tulips bloom
And thumblings fill the sky with laughter:
So Thumbelina and Tom Thumb
Have found a happy ever after.