The Click of Needles

By Jennifer Lynn Krohn

 

To say his queen was silent

is an exaggeration.

Silence is impossible:

the footstep,

the heartbeat,

the breath.

 

She simply didn’t speak

for seven years,

the click of needles accompanying her

everywhere—their metallic pulse cut

 

through branches and ferns

led the king and his hounds to her.

 

He returned, his trophy

not a boar or hind,

but a woman—

 

people whispered.

Some claimed,

It was just like that story

a dozen variations

on a princess cursed,

her silence

the price paid to restore her brothers

to their human shapes.

 

Others accused her

of witchcraft.

 

Mystery in a woman may be attractive

at first; a husband can’t help but grow paranoid

sleeping next to a stranger.

 

The king decided that she was weaving

her spell as far back as the forest.

 

Why else marry a girl,

who ripped her hands

knitting nettle shirts,

but never uttered a word of complaint

or consent?

 

No advisor warned the king

that burning his wife was a bit much.

 

People brought bundles of wood

and waited for the queen

to finally utter some word

or at least scream.

 

No one watched the smoke

climb into the sky,

 

or saw the white wings

appear.

 

No one questioned why,

like vultures,

six swans circled

the bonfire.

 

They landed;

the ropes snapped;

the crowd held its breath

 

waiting for magic,

for her to cast

her knitting over the flock

and transform them into men,

for her to speak

and forgive the king,

for a happy ending.

 

She took the shirts

—the mob’s expectations—

and threw them all

on the flames.

 

Without a word, she stretched

her wings and soared away.

_________________

Jennifer Lynn Krohn was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico where she currently lives with her husband.  She earned her MFA at the University of New Mexico. Jennifer has published work in The Saranac Review, Adobe Walls, RED OCHRE LiT, Prick of the Spindle and In the Garden of the Crow.


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