This Is Not a Fairytale (2016) is a chapbook published by Poinciana Paper Press containing a poem by Sonia Farmer, produced in an edition of 50 copies.
The poem is from an an earlier collaboration with Holly Parotti, extracted and letterpress printed in handset Centaur types from the University of Iowa Center for the Book Type Kitchen. Sonia carved and printed a reductive linoleum print for the front cover on Stonehenge paper, and set a drop cap in Goudy for the first line of the poem, which is printed on on Hahnemuhle Biblio paper. It has Moriki kozo endsheets.
THIS IS NOT A FAIRYTALE
On a morning like every other,
the island stirs awake, habitually masked
to the violence of the everyday:
light ripping open the bellies of clouds,
stain of red spreading across the sky.
Women on the island boil grits
and stain them with corned beef;
Men kiss their women goodbye
as automatically as they will
clean their fish later on the dock,
tossing guts from bellies to sea,
red meeting red, spreading out to the horizon.
But this is no morning like any other
and no evening will be the same either—
for this is the day I arrive as swiftly
as light, foreign woman with a beauty
that stirs the island awake.
Where I’ve come from, who I am—
none of this matters now,
though the men and women murmur
around my head like seagulls
and give me a name: Gaulin.
What they will say later,
when I’ve vanished
is that I came for the man
whose hands cleaned fish as thoroughly
as women’s hearts.
Yes, the story of the woman
exists always as a footnote
to the story of the man,
her life as uneventful as
a boat tied to Potter’s Cay dock
for weeks on end.
No one asks: what is this boat doing here
day after day, getting bleached by the sun?
Instead they marvel at the way it fits
into the scene there,
perfectly sized for that one man inside,
his shirt wrapped around his head
to catch the sweat collecting on his brow.
He pauses for a moment after he ties
the boat to the dock, glancing at the sun
almost finished setting behind him,
scattering red across the surface
of the water there.
Why I came is not important.
How I left you, that is important.
How you look at your lovers now, that
is important. My dear,
all women are gaulins.
The question you must ask is:
When does a woman become a gaulin?
The answer is in the story:
by taking a lover.
The difference between
a woman and the gaulin is
the woman loves once and cannot go on—
her despair is like the boat,
waiting at the dock for the fisherman
to come back. It supposes
he will come back.
Set adrift long ago,
the gaulin has learned,
though many lovers,
how to tell her own story.
She’s memorized the methods of these men—
tether and abandon hope in a pool of illusion—
and improved upon them.
If my leaving has taught you anything,
let us hope that it is this:
That the shape of your love
and the shape of your lover
mean nothing to the woman
who has been disfigured
by the cruel returns of devotion.
When you tell your story,
you will be telling my story.
This is what it means to be a shapeshifter—
like light, nothing holds me,
everything releases me.
Beware the scattered fire. Beware
the sun that makes men pause
on their little boats
and wipe their brows
and stare so long at its center
they go blind with desire.