Introducing the June 2010 Readers – 2. Kirsten Irving

Kirsten Irving was brought up in North-east Lincolnshire. She’s half of Fuselit and Sidekick Books along with Jon Stone. Her writing has appeared in numerous online and print journals including Magma, Hand + Star and Pomegranate, and has been anthologised in City State: New London Poetry and Stop Sharpening Your Knives 3. Kirsty blogs at


(For this exercise, members of the sample group were each asked to summarise the same popular fable, as generally accepted in their respective cultures.)


A young girl is driven
to fate’s whistle
through an archway of fangs.
The seasons change.
Coats are shorn.
The wolf becomes a tame dog.
She overcomes the horror
of being alone.


There is no word in Mi-ilk
for Beauty or Beast.
We have always known the tale
as Cream and the Cheese.
It is a brief enough yarn
about acceptance,
the two threatening to sour
and finally sliding into each other,
the white becoming golden,
the yellow becoming golden.


A wily half-fox
lures a beautiful chick
to his castle. She’s none too keen
on fur or parasitic tenants
at first, but a sad story
about losing some eggs
and a merciless rabbit
and he gets his snout in.
There are many clever foxes
in our stories. When the girl
grows her fur, she becomes
the craftiest one of all.


The rose that travelled from the garden
to claim the hand of the merchant’s daughter
was a new breed, cultivated
with horned hands and growls,
designed to intimidate strangers.
The petals are like rough tongues
or the splashes from a wound.
I hope one day to hold one
and scratch my finger
on its collar of thorns.


It tickles the castle in this story,
her tiny feet new and stippling
his flagstones, after many years
of dampened slaps. Who wouldn’t want
a summer shower on the ramparts
to break up
the perennial nor’easter?
So often during her tenure,
the maiden, unsuspecting,
has nearly exploded the castle,
her soft steps bringing the groan
of the structure from oboe
to piccolo, only for the hair
and scratch of the beast
to douse it.
On the day the thug’s paws take silk,
the tufts falling away like snow,
and the two began their wedding dance,
the drawbridge gasps open.

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