Shame in the Forest House by Danielle Low-Waters
Hailey is a princess. I’ve heard the neighborhood kids call her this
with blades in their teeth.
She has the shimmering pastel tulle gowns, glittering crowns,
jeweled wands and rubber children’s heels to prove it.
Hailey is a princess and tells me I’m a prince. Kiss my hand
she says and I do.
Princesses make the rules of all the games. Hailey tells me to put on her father’s
corduroy jacket and steel toed work boots. Prince clothes.
Commands me to see if the shoe fits. I slide on her heel. Her round, polished toes stop
just before the edge.
Proof beyond a doubt that she is the princess.
Her mother brings us circus animal cookies and lemonade with two
ice cubes. Perfect squares.
Hailey wants all the pink cookies and any shaped like horses.
Sometimes, we knock all the sprinkles off onto a plate and race to lick them off.
Sometimes, our mouths bump against each other’s, sliding along the spit slicked ceramic.
The Prince feeds her cookies and she nibbles them. Pinky up elegance.
We play in the backyard, in a hard plastic house with a green roof.
The forest house. Hailey says the house is haunted and we run.
The Prince, in step behind the Princess. Hailey falls. Rips her tights. Skins her knee.
I pull her up. She is not crying.
She is bleeding and no tears come.
The game is not over.
Hailey, still the Princess says
now you are the doctor, now you are the monster, now you are the vampire
and I am whatever she says I am when she tells me to
Clean the blood.
Lick the blood.
Suck the blood.
I am sucking the blood from the Princess’ knee when her mother, the Queen
screams at the sight of us in the forest house.
Her, on her back in the grass and me, at the bottom of her skirt,
blood smeared, at her knees, saving her life.
Her mother grabs me by both shoulders in the oversized jacket.
Shakes me into my body.
She tears at my mouth, scrapes the metallic taste from my tongue with her sleeve
and shoves my body toward the gate. Wordless ferocity.
Hailey is the Princess and I am sent home.
Danielle Low-Waters is a Queer Poet, analog photography and expired film enthusiast and obsessive playlist maker. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic and the Constellation Anthology edited by Yrsa Daley-Ward. She currently lives in Vallejo, California with her wife and two dogs in a Victorian home filled with art that makes their mothers uncomfortable.