The Question

Stephanie Parent

Once upon a time
There was a girl who wanted so badly to be loved
She made every mistake it was possible to make

She traveled into dark and dangerous places—

—fairy-tale forests, claustrophobic 
nightclubs, Craigslist personal ads—

She offered herself to any clutching hands—

—the calloused grip of a blacksmith, 
the manicured fingers of a businessman, 
a witch’s bony claws—

And if she came across a boy kind enough
To wait, to withhold his embrace till she reached 
out first—

She ran.

The girl made a fool of herself. She begged
For attention. She expected too much
And too little
At once.

For a while, she thought she’d received
What she desired
Attracted men who admired
Her body

So she looked for the imperfections
On her own flesh
The reasons she didn’t deserve this

And she always found them.

So the girl retreated
To the blank page
Where she could list her flaws
And her foolish transgressions
And relive them a million times.

Still, it wasn’t punishment enough.

She had to keep writing
The tales she had read once
About fantasy and desire
She had to ask herself the question
She had avoided for so long:

Can I love those stories, live those stories
In a world without fairies and witches
Spells and enchantments
A world where happily-ever-after
Isn’t what you thought?

Can I still be a heroine
When I’ve been stupid and selfish
Ugly and foolish
The witch and the princess
The light and the dark?

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net. Follow her on Twitter at @SC_Parent and Instagram at @SCParent.