Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who dared reach beyond his mousedom, was sentenced to the dungeon. There, in a darkness so black he could not see his paw in front of his whiskers, he began to wonder if he even existed. In desperation he 'grabbed hold of his tail...to have something, anything, to hold on to. He considered fainting.'
Then he remembered the 'words of the threadmaster: honor, courtesy, devotion, and bravery' and thought, 'I will be brave.'
Bravery. Bravery! 'How best for him to be brave? He cleared his throat. He let go of his tail. He stood up straighter. Once upon a time,
he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.' (pp.74-75)Once upon a time.
These are the first words of fairy tale, the quintessential beginning of story that proposes to hold in tension both joy and sorrow, terror and triumph. It strikes me that whenever we find the bravery to tell a story true and whole, to say 'Once upon a time, I...', we do something extremely powerful. We take the mute fear of darkness and give it voice; we form the void, make possible a clean and unexpected comfort, maybe even joy.
I feel compelled to say this because I have noticed small places of doubt among us— those who are asking, 'Is it okay if I write something dark?' and similarly 'Is it okay to dare the darkness of life just for a moment and write in joy?' It is okay. Maybe even essential for our existence, to keep us from fainting.
Of course I cannot resist extending an invitation then, even though I'm going to be leaving next week to attend Jubilee
. It means an earlier deadline for us. Wednesday afternoon, if you want to be considered for a feature at High Calling Blogs
. But here's the invitation. (There is a part of me that hesitates to begin with this prompt, simply because I don't want it to plunge us into abstract language, stereotype and sentimentality, but I thought it would be fun to try)...
Write a poem that begins, middles, or ends with Once upon a time...
or even just Once...
Or, if you'd prefer, you could use some other common fairy tale language like happily ever after
. Just try to tell a moment true and whole. Don't shrink from the darkness or the joy but outline them in bold details— the broken yardstick that snapped because your mother spanked you with it; the goldenrods you brought to your teacher that she threw away, declaring them weeds (true story!); or the hands of your child that reached warm to cradle your chin, while she looked you in the eye and said 'You are a good mommy [or daddy].'
While you saddle your horse and dig through briar rose and bramble, I will wait for you, once upon time...
The Dolls photo, by Sara B. Used with permission.
[UPDATE: Here's my contribution...]
upon a time
I thought you would
ride back into our lives
into the kitchen
barn, dead end road,
barrel, wind whipped
pick up mop
you had thrown across
black and white
put it back
near white iron sink,
on the cheek
and play fly-like-a-birdie
with me again.
That was before I learned
some people never
to happily ever after.
YOU TRIED IT:
Nancy's The Dance of Time
and First Post
Nikki's The Dangers of Sitting
Jennie's Picture This
and Broken Wing
Erin's Divine: The Sprite
(don't miss the final line of this... it was something to ponder)
Katrina's Love Amazing
Mom2Six's Once Upon a Time
Erica's Once upon a time
Laure's 5 O'Clock Afternoon Hour
Marcus's Drought on the Open Road
Labels: high calling blogs, Kate DiCamillo, poetry, random acts of poetry, stories, The Tale of Despereaux