Vow of Silence

Day 26
Poem 25

Today’s feminist fairytale is about consent and the fear of saying no to men. I used Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans. Elisa, the main character, is tasked with saving her brothers and must endure physical pain and the inability to speak until she does. During her silence, a king marries her and then nearly has her executed when he learns that she’s sneaking off to weave the shirts that will return her brothers to human form.

Vow of Silence

I couldn’t say no,
I don’t want to marry you
because I couldn’t speak
and anyway, who would listen to a girl
with hands rough from weaving
nettles. The cloth is dyed with my blood.
The nettles I have chosen but not the crown.

I couldn’t say no,
I’m not betraying you
because I couldn’t speak
and anyway, who would believe a girl
who didn’t want to be queen, who slipped
under the moon to labor like a servant.
The nettles I have chosen but not the crown.

I couldn’t say no,
I’m not a witch
because I couldn’t speak
and anyway, who would be swayed by a girl
who walked to the fire, hands still worrying
nettles into someone else’s salvation.
My family I have chosen but not myself.

I am the earthbound, the unfree, the savior
by default. As my brothers become themselves
again I don’t speak to welcome them, to tell
my story, claim my innocence. Never
will I be me again and so I scream it.
No.

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