Another Bedtime Story

In college I took a creative writing class. One of the assignments was to choose a literary journal to follow from the school library. I chose the Beloit Poetry Journal. A lot of it wasn’t my style (or as I’ve been accused, over my head, like a great deal of modern art) but I did discover my favorite modern poet in there.

A.E. Stallings just amazed me. Her poetry can be formal and playful at the same time, and is steeped in the past without being weighed down by it. As a history buff I adore the classical influences.

It tends to be several years between her books, and since I don’t subscribe to journals, it’s always a thrill when a new one comes out. Here’s a poem published in the Beloit Poetry Journal in 2009, the last selection in her new book, Olives.

 

Another Bedtime Story

 

One day you realize it. It doesn’t need to be said—

Just as you turn the page—the end—and close the cover—

All, all of the stories are about going to bed:

 

Goldilocks snug upstairs, the toothy wolf instead

 Of grandmother tucked in the quilts, crooning, closer, closer—

One day you realize it. It hardly needs to be said:

 

The snow-pale princess sleeps—the pillow under her head

 Of rose petals or crystal—and dreams of a lost lover—

All, all of the stories are about going to bed;

 

Even

 

 the one about witches and ovens and gingerbread

 In the dark heart of Europe—can children save each other?—

You start to doubt it a little. It doesn’t need to be said,

 

But I’ll say it, because it’s embedded in everything I’ve read,

 The tales that start with once and end with ever-after,

 All, all of the stories are about going to bed,

 

About coming to terms with the night, alleviating the dread

 Of laying the body down, of lying under a cover.

 That’s why our children resist it so. That’s why it mustn’t be said:

 All, all of the stories are about going to bed.

 

She discusses a little bit about the inspiration for it here. And there’s a newer interview with her in the University of Georgia’s student paper.

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