She Stumbles

by Jane Yolen

The princess takes a step,

stumbles, tumbles

onto a bed that sinks down

from the wall.

It looks comfortless

small, a prison cot.

There are bars

across the tower windows.

Someone is talking

to her, at her,

a nursery rhyme lullaby,

ballad, spell.

She tries to speak,

to order, protest.

At last she calls for help,

tongue thick as a peasant’s.

But she is caught,

a fly in amber,

precious only in some

far-off future.

Worth nothing now.


A poet since a child (and no, she won’t post those here) Jane Yolen’s first real poetry sales happened after 113 rejections, which she posted on her bedroom wall. Since then she has had 10 books of adult poetry published as well as many poems for children published in collections, anthologies, as part of novels, a novel in verse (Finding Baba Yaga), as well as a memoir of her father’s family, who immigrated to America in the early 1900s (Ekaterinoslav). All in all, she has 370 books published, including novels, graphic novels, picture books, essays, nonfiction, two cookbooks, 10 music books, and won many awards, one of which set her good coat on fire.