La Belle et la Bête

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"My heart," he said, "is the heartof a beast." What could she dobut love him? First she must resist:the copper bowls gleaming on the rack

in her father's kitchen, the white bloomof the basin, the good ladle that remained in placehadn't promised her this. Therethe lamps had required her hand to light them,

the mirrors were plain and dependableas laundry. Trading herself for a rose,a single red gesture, she'd arrivedat this vague castle where the glass

said "I am your mirror, la belle,"and showed her a clouded double,almost a ghost. Where were her simple objectsof affection now? The Beast steamed

with the thrill of a slaughtered doe.His ruined garden -- haze formed into hedgeand topiary -- smoked, the grottoesinfinite and intimate at once.

Even the statuary watched,as if to cautiously urge her on; for themthere were no secrets,no future to reel out its flickering patterns

of light and dark. So Beauty doesas she does: these cautious walks with the Beast,at first tentative, her skirt scrapinglike cicadas against the marble,

then her hand in his glove. His rough pawsproduce for her an Oceania of pearls;she wears them across her bodice as thoughshe'd keep everything of his at the surface,

somewhere above her heart.Of course she loves him wholly, in the end,although it does not appear wise to do so,which transforms his wolfish muzzle

into the bland and pretty face of a prince.But it's not him anyone remembers --rather the heady onrushof the transformation, the will

that eventually unfurls the bodybeneath the fur. The moments,disruptive and lush, before the breaking through --the power to bloom

through solid walls,not to the kingdom itself, where nothing happens,but the approach to the kingdom:everything, the coming to love.

Copyright 1987 Turtle, Swan: Poems by Mark Doty David R. Godine

Digital Facsimile of Original Pages: Turtle, Swan, page 17 Turtle, Swan, page 18 Turtle, Swan, page 19

© Mark Doty