The fairies insist I seize their sword. I don’t own a sword. My family wasn’t the sword keeping type, none belted at a hip, none crisscross on the wall, none lifted in war. My family lived on the wrong side of town, ran around with the wrong kind of crowd, held the wrong kinds of jobs, but taught right from wrong—no swords, no guns, no knives, stay away from the hard drugs. As a teen, I friended a girl with long blonde hair, an attic bedroom, and a knife named Tamara. I never touched it, not even close, even if I wanted to. I wanted—velvet’s black embrace, girls with dark hair, to believe in magic, a life like it is in the movies, not like life in the movie theater—all those un-vacuumed halls, all that wallpaper curling from the corners, all those restroom stalls with doors, smudge marks around the locks. I’ve seen knives in museums behind glass, polished, bejeweled beyond battlefield stain and splash. On TV while ironing patches on my jeans and trousers, I’ve watched sword flicks—this version of Troy, that one of Gilgamesh, and the same one over and over with the death star. I tell the fairies that as a kid I watched The Sword in the Stone, but I never fit the profile—no blonde hair, no yellow scarf, no red cape of boy, no boy body. I can’t pass, even with my pixie bob, even if I bind my AAs. You could be Peter, one says. I stroke the sword’s handle. The fairies whisper to each other and gesture. I try to explain that even if I tugged hard on the gilded handle, braced a foot on the stone for leverage, and could lift the sword high into the air, no golden light would fall around us. One says, Try.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of more than a dozen books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her books are American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), and Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012). Her most recent book is the collaborative collection of short stories The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters: Ten Tales (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2015) with artist Lauren Rinaldi. She holds a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has received an Academy of American Poets Award, a Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Award, and the Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, and Feminist Studies. Currently, she teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com