Blue Flowers by John C. Mannone

Blue Flowers
John C. Mannone

 .                      After ‘Rapunzel’

An old witch desired the young
virgins; they could stop the withering
of time with their hair full of elixir oil.

A crooked smile writhed on her
wrinkled face; her eyes gleamed
when she came to steal the baby girl.

‘Rapunzel,’ the old dame called her.
Her beauty, fresh as flowers blue,
dressed the fields so green.

As the child slept, the enchantress stole
her away to a grim stone tower,
its only entrance, a window way up high.

Now—being a descendant of Nachash,
the master of enchanters—the witch
transformed to serpent. Lithe and swift,

she slithered and scaled the stones leading
to the windowed room; left her there to sleep.
In a few years, her hair grew thick and long.

Each dawn, the maiden awakened to the light
of the sun, to the songs of the birds and
to the scratchy old voice calling her name,

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.

The witch would shimmy up her braids;
precious oils rubbed on her scaly skin
and seeped deep into her flesh. Each day

the hag would come for more and bring her
things to see and sew and occupy her time.
Rapunzel embroidered masterworks of forest

and of the birds to hang on barren walls.
From oriole and song thrush, she learned
their mimicry, the poetry of their songs.

She sang a melody that even the birds
would twitter to. Her lilt would swoon
the very trees the birds nested in, the leaves

would sift her notes of peace. So too, a prince
who one day was simply passing by—
her music as seductive as any siren’s song.

He lingered in the brush and soon saw
the witch perform her peculiar deed.
He mumbled to himself, I wonder why?

In the shadows of the night, he’d come
and do the same as what he saw
the witch had done: he’d chant,

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.

The handsome prince climbed her braids,
entranced by scent and sound. She too
was overwhelmed by his kindness.

Day after day, they talked and planned
and kissed the nights away. They fell
in love: he gave her his promise,
.                      she gave him her flowers.

Soon, the witch sensed her age creeping in,
and knew why. No longer a virgin,
she hacked off Rapunzel’s tresses, threw
.                      her out into the wilderness.

The witch took Rapunzel’s locks and hid
herself inside the stone-cold tower; waited
for the prince. And when he came and said,

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,

the hidden witch threw him roping strands
of golden hair hooked below the window’s ledge.
He climbed to find her grotesque eyes

staring back. “You have ruined everything,”
she cackled. “I will scratch your eyes out
and feed you to the wolves!” As she cast him

to the ground, he grabbed her by her arm
and she tumbled down to the jagged rocks
where her black blood spilled. A prickly

bush below cushioned the falling prince.
Sadly, though, its violent thorns
had gouged out the sight from his eyes.

For many months he wandered in the woods
before he heard a melody in whispers
of some familiar tune. The song

he’d grown to love, rose louder and louder.
And the scent of blue flowers filled the air.
Rapunzel? Rapunzel! he cried.

And she came running to the riverbank,
her new gold hair flowing in the breeze,
its silk drawing him close to her.

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