I didn’t even know there was such a thing. When I heard of National Read a Fairy Tale Day, I knew I had to celebrate it somehow. But I didn’t want to just read one myself; I wanted to invite the world, the whole of civilization, to read a fairy tale, or something like a fairy tale, no one has ever seen before.
This is, in fact, from my InkStains project, Day 8:
When a thousand little gods still walked the earth, when humanity was young and the land fresh, before the ages of silicon or iron or bronze, there was a youth in love.
Even then, when there was little worth fighting for, when language was new and inept and inexact, there were few things more worth fighting for than love.
The youth wrestled a bull until it had to yield. The youth diverted the course of a river. The youth dug a hole straight through the mountains with his bare hands.
The girl did not notice.
Let me tell you about the girl. You may have heard of Helen, for whom a thousand ships were launched. You may be familiar with Cleopatra. You might have seen filmic images of Brigitte Bardot. But you have never seen beauty such as existed in her face. There has never been as great a beauty ever.
She was smart. She knew all the stories. If there had been books, she would have read them all. Until she saw the shapes of unicorns and dragons in the clouds, no one saw anything but cloud. She wore a jade piece around her neck, which she had found and fashioned herself; before then, no one had ever made jewelry. She discovered salt on a breezy afternoon, discovered pepper over a long weekend. Had there been weaving, she would have woven. Had there been canvasses, she would have painted, and her paintings would have been lost to the ravages of time but would still, today, in just the memory of them, inspire artists across the world. Had there been kings yet, she would’ve been the very first.
A girl like that is not easily impressed. So the youth appealed to the gods. And three of the gods heard, and were generous.
The first god gave the youth a net with which he could catch fish, and a knife, or something like a knife, with which he could clean his catch. And this youth was first of all mankind to catch a fish, prepare a fish–with some salt and pepper–and serve fish grilled. He fed the village, if it could be called a village at so early a time in our history.
The girl ate the fish, and liked the fish, and thanked the youth, but nothing changed.
The second god gave the youth a sack of seeds, which he planted in a field, the first seeds ever to be planted in all of time. Plants burst forth, first as stems and vines and bushes, until overnight they blossomed in every color imaginable, and many colors that, while we take them for granted today, had never existed before.
The girl ran through the fields of flowers with all the other girls, the children, and the animals. They made garlands and necklaces and filled stone vases. But by the time the blooms faded, nothing had changed.
The third god gave the youth fermented grapes, from which he made wine, which had never before been seen. Like everything else, he gave this to everyone, and though it was deliriously delicious, still nothing changed.
Despite the three gifts of the gods, the youth had failed to win his love. He wandered hopelessly through the woods until he came upon a river, and there he sat on a boulder and wept. They were brilliantly intense, those tears, and the skies cried in sympathy.
After some time, he looked up and saw the girl. She had come after him into the woods. She was smiling.
“You brought me dinner, and that was nice,” she said, in the language of their time so the translation is approximate. “You gave the whole world flowers, and I know that you gave them to me. You brought us wine, and I don’t think we’ll ever celebrate anything the same as we did before. Did you think I wanted these things?”
“I don’t know that I was thinking at all.”
“You weren’t,” she said. “And you aren’t now. I appreciate those things, but they are not what I want.”
“You want my heart,” he said.
Her smile grew larger then. “I want your heart.”
“It’s yours,” he said.
But the girl shook her head. “It’s not so easy. Convince me. Tell me. Use every word you can imagine, and make up new ones, but tell me how much you love me.”
And that is how poetry was created.