By A. E. Stallings
Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—
You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.
Source: Poetry (March 2010)
A.E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics at the University of Georgia and Oxford University. Stallings’s poetry is known for its ingenuity and wit, and dexterous use of classical allusion and forms to illuminate contemporary life. In interviews, Stallings has spoken to the importance of classical authors on her own work: “The ancients taught me how to sound modern,” she told Forbes magazine. “They showed me that technique was not the enemy of urgency, but the instrument.” She is director of the Poetry Center in Athens, Greece where she lives with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and their son, Jason.
More By This Poet
The barnacle is rather odd —
It’s not related to the clam
Or limpet. It’s an arthropod,
Though one that doesn’t give a damn.
Cousin to the crab and shrimp,
When larval, it can twitch and swim,
And make decisions — tiny imp
That flits according to its whim.
The Pull Toy
You squeezed its leash in your fist,
It followed where you led:
Tick, tock, tick, tock,
Nodding its wooden head.
Wagging a tail on a spring,
Its wheels gearing lackety-clack,
Dogging your heels the length of the house,
Though you seldom glanced back.
It didn’t mind...
More Poems about Mythology & Folklore
It’s true: I almost never
smile, but that doesn’t mean
I’m not in love: my heart
is that black violin
played slowly. You know that
moment late in the solo
when the voice
is so pure you feel
the blood in it: the wound
and complete surrender. That’s
In this dream,
the paths cross
and cross again.
They are spelling
a real boy
out of repetition.
is the one
he must be
about this, but
he can’t feel
and the fisherman,
the fireman and
the ones on fire.