A True Princess Bruises

The weight of a pea under her mattress
enough to keep her awake all night, they said,
to cover her skin with small black puckers.

They asked her about her skin, scratch-tests, bleeding time
and bruises, the red in the water she rinsed her teeth with.
They held her wrist overhard to observe the blue ring.

Lift up your shirt, so we can see the evidence:
blood pooled on thigh and stomach, the white back
marred with what look like thumbprints.

Little use for the princess to complain,
to say, I didn’t choose this unhardy body,
this useless letting of humors.

She will wait for a prince who barely grazes her cheek,
whose hands move furniture from her path,
their bed so large their limbs never accidentally touch.

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the author of Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006) and She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011.) Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in journals like The Iowa Review, The Seattle Review, and Rattle. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches at the MFA program at National University. Her web site is

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