The brass key has dulled, the ribbon frayed,
From long years upon the peg.

At first he warned her then threatened:
“Do not go up those stairs,
Do not use the key to open the door to that room!”

And she didn’t.

He left the castle on trumped up trips—
Yet she didn’t touch the key.
He had her maid whisper of previous wives
Tortured, murdered, hung on hooks,
Their bones still in the room
     --all true—
And she laughed.

Curse or compulsion, he couldn’t kill her,
Add to his collection, until she looked.

A child arrived and then another
And then more. Decades passed;
Her knees grew too worn to climb the stairs
Even if she’d wanted.

Now he smacks his toothless gums,
His snowy eyes startle at shadows
While he shivers beside a roaring fire.
She smiles across the hearth:
As her mother always told her,
Nobody’s perfect.

Lola Lucas