I was never beautiful, and above
all else, my father loved things
He married my mother
for her flaxen mane, or so
her jealous sisters whispered.
I was a disappointment from the day
I burst into life, squalling
and stippled with birthmarks.
My father decorated me
with jewels, brocade gowns,
even gilded masks to distract
from my drab brown hair,
my dull blue eyes, but I never
sparkled. I never shone.
At sixteen, I was still a cygnet
dressed in a swan’s gown, and
my mother and her gleaming
locks were buried beneath six feet
of leaden earth, beside one beating
half of my father’s heart. He
made a deal with the devil, or
Dionysus, as he was called then,
perhaps hoping to reclaim
the gold my mother took
with her when she died.
Before long, he was holding
his dream in his own two hands,
and I watched as he turned
our home into a treasure chest.
With the press of a finger pad,
he gilded every surface in sight.
I saw the sparkle in his smile as
he aurified my mother’s portrait,
my beaded bedspread, his own robes.
I watched as my unthinking father
offered me his open palm, and in return,
I handed him my heart.
Just before I froze in gold, my lips
slanted into an almost-smile, for I knew
he would love me
better this way:
I would shine.