Second wish

by Wolf Pascoe on March 30, 2011

You know how when you lay
yourself down in the back porch
hammock, sleep all day and
wake up thinking: am I still married?
Those kids of Judy’s—are they
grown yet? Is that model rocket
still in the basement—the five
fins that took all the glue?
It’s the same in those stories
where the girl has to sweep
the ashes from the fire for seven
days, until the dark man lets her go—
only it could be seven years, or seven
decades in your life until
the lock springs open. And now
grown-up with gold in your pocket,
you stride into the breezy afternoon.


Isn’t that the way of things—
dropping breadcrumbs faithfully,
so sure and full of hope,
then looking back and the crows
already making off with them.
You could be anyone thinking
these thoughts.
You could have wandered
into this life by mistake and still
be on the second wish, or run
anytime to the edge of the forest,
calling out for the red-haired man
to take you back to the palace
where the King and Queen
remain with their son or daughter,
the feast set out, silver
glinting in the torchlight, honeyed
pears and apples from Damascus,
everyone silent as the drawbridge
clinks lower, waiting for your hand
on the iron door.


If you had asked me what I meant by this poem when I wrote it, I couldn’t have told you. As often with writing poetry, when you do it you’re better off looking somewhere else. I was looking at images from fairy tales, wondering what they had to do with me.

Now it seems to me that the poem is about childhood. Or rather, it’s about a way that I experience Nick’s childhood as dislocating. I often lose track of time. I don’t know where I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. I turn around and three years have passed.

After Nick was born, I welcomed the return of childhood. Is there anything more wonderful than to see again through the eyes of a child, your child—to find magic everywhere, to believe in fairies? I still think so, but I also know that long ago, people regarded fairyland as the most ominous place that could be imagined, and there must have been a reason.

I’m not complaining. It was a cost of doing business with fairies. They’d invite you over for drinks. You’d stay a few days. Then, when you returned home, you discovered that you’d somehow been away for years.

One of Nick’s favorite bedtime books was Good Night Faries, by Kathleen and Michael Hague. The illustrations paint a world of intoxicating beauty. I loved losing myself in it with young Nick. There was this line in the book:


Of all the world’s creatures, there is nothing so like a fairy as a child.

That’s it, isn’t it?
. . .



Not Ready




Art Passions — The two illustrations above (Palace of Wonder by Edmund Dulac and Pandora by Arthur Rackham) are taken from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists. Among them are Rackham, Maxfield Parrish, and the Preraphaelites.

Perhaps you noticed one of the allusions in the poem to the fairy tale below. This version is from the people who brought you Rocky and Bullwinkle:



Express yourself! Any thoughts about childhood and fairies? I’d love you to add your comment below. I always respond here.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

BigLittleWolf March 30, 2011 at 11:21 am

Lovely, Wolf.

And maybe experiencing “dislocation” isn’t such a bad thing. Disorienting, yes. I find myself going through it now (for different reasons). And hoping to change the conversation, to make the “dislocation” a positive and freeing thing.

As childhood is. As the imagination can be. As words facilitate our choosing the way of things.


Wolf Pascoe March 30, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Especially if you’re a compulsive like me, dislocation, however alarming, can be a relief. Surrender Dorothy.


Barbara March 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I’d never heard that before, but it’s exactly right – a child is like a fairy!


Wolf Pascoe March 30, 2011 at 9:17 pm

I think fairy stories started out as kid stories.


D March 30, 2011 at 10:47 pm

You’re dead on. People who don’t have them complain about them and people who do complain at times, but know that these special beings are keeping them young and in touch with something wild and beautiful.

Who’s the chick with the gremlins? She’s kinda cute.


Wolf Pascoe March 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Ah, that’s Pandora. The only thing left in the box is Hope.


D March 30, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Figures. I’m attracted to the tragic ones. But, perhaps there’s Hope after all…


Wolf Pascoe March 31, 2011 at 7:47 am

There’s always the nine Muses. I’m sure things could work out with one of them.


Sirena April 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm

LOVE this poem! Maybe you and Nick could write some poetry together – I’m serious about this. I’d love to see a poem of Nick’s if he would write one.


Wolf Pascoe April 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

He’d rather illustrate one. I’ll get right on it.


shelley April 11, 2011 at 11:50 am

I love this poem. I think you should publish it as an illustrated book. I’d like to figure out a way to hang it in my house. Setting aside your topics, which I always enjoy, simply reading your posts is like enjoying a dessert. I’ve just been catching up, and am struck and wonderfully sated by your beautiful use of language. Now I’m ready for the rest of the day!


Wolf Pascoe April 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Go forth in beauty, my angel of praise!


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