The Princess and the Words

Once upon a time there lived a nicens little princess on the airy fairy island of DuBluth.

She had a nasty habit, a state secret, it was said, one that made her sisters titter, whisper, cluck their tongues in disapproving glee.

You see, whenever little princess met a stranger on the heath: a foreigner, a farmer, teapot sellers, dancing bards, her nicens little princess tongue got muddy-muddled up, and all her silver princess words turned sailor blue.

She told a linen merchant, “Good day, sir, and guerny jibble $!@*# today.”

And he called her a nasty wench, and she cried and ran away.

Once she asked a fortune teller, “Why do I %?#!@ all the time? It’s really quite alarming when I schmangle tqziap.”

The wise and wrinkled lady only patted her silken hair, declared her cursed and shoved her out.

The royal parents bought great tutors to retrain her, called for chants and magic spells to charm her tongue.

But the only thing it profited the nicens little princess was a greater well of words to draw upon.

Now she cursed in French and sometimes Latin (when agitated). She even let a few enchanted words escape, at parties. (Great Aunt Claire remains a cabbage to this day.)

The old queen said, “We cannot think to wed the child this way. We’ll have to lock her in a tower and pretend she’s caught the plague.”

But the king refused to hear it. He called in one last favor from a strange young man he’d met on a stormy little corner of the harbor. “Please,” he said. “I’ve heard you can work miracles with words. I’ll pay you any ransom if your skill can cure my girl.”

With a single nod the odd young man agreed. He followed the king to the princess’s wing and sat in her royal chambers, at a tiny writing desk, across from the nicens princess.

“Alone, if you please,” he said to the king.

And the king let the two of them be.

The princess clenched her teeth. She did her best to hold her tongue, to spare the nice young man the torrent of blue words.

But his still, blue eyes bore into hers, and the dam of silence broke.

She said, “It’s really nice to $#&@ you. I’m so sorry you had to franderschtook and all this gangrishmarken frlackle too.”

Her cheeks blushed poppy pink. She waited for a sneer of disapproval, wide-eyed shock, a cluck of the tongue.

But he remained as still as winter, smiled the placid young man smile he wore before she spoke to him. He gave a little nod and said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” she said.

And that was all she said. No fringle marsch or cankren parther.

The young man looked into her eyes and said again, “Hello.”

“Hello,” she said. And she could not contain the giggle that erupted from her triumph.

“A walk?” he asked, and stood and offered his arm.

“A walk.” she said, taking hold.

“The garden path?” he asked.

“The garden path.”

A new music of silence filled the spaces where the muddy words had been. She marveled as they strolled, at how her sentences unfolded into lovely strings of nothing, only lonely little pearls here and there.

At last, “This spell, are you a wizard?”

The young man sighed and pulled her closer and said simply, “I’m a poet.”

poetburns

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