A Poetry Sporadical of Repeating Forms

The Fairy Tale and the Double Feature

Will Cordeiro


I wasted childhood by lying on my back
Under lofts of apple trees whose limbs would spread out
Above, while I awoke from dreams into a letter
Under them—O, that little arabesque of heartbreak,
A mouth’s ripe yearning for Once Upon a Time all
Fairy tales begin with, before they quickly head

Off, as the spell disperses, with a prince. My head
Would swim; still swims wanting that first bright wonder back.
—But, no, I know the forking branch of grief that all
Adults will know, or spend a lifetime figuring out.
Some, in middle age, in middling rage, suffer break-
Downs; others continue longing, writing long letters

To others who love others still. For the letter
Of the law is death, but its spirit giveth life.
Down any street, you’ll see: the man eating break-
Fast cereal at one at night, the cashier in back
Sweeping up, the busboy taking the garbage out—
A silent weeping, tawdry lusts. What hidden awe

Inarticulates their want? Do they want it all,
Or only something that leaves each empty letter
Unfulfilled when they try to speak their hunger out,
That sense of time forsaken as it moves ahead?
Surrounded by such rinds and trash, I’m trudging back
To the quiet room where I’ll lie awake ’til daybreak

Wondering whose heavy heart’s sweet-rotting fruit might break
From its topmost branch and fall—O, endlessly fall—
Through paradise to give me childhood’s dreaming back . . . ?
But, what must you be thinking? She’ll take it. Let her.
There’s other things I need to do with life.
Your head
Filled with no languor of lost nights worrying with doubt,

While I’m left to cry, not knowing whom you’re going out
With now. Is this the reason each fairy tale breaks
Off just where the domestic rigors set in? Head
Down any street—walk out, don’t write me long, sad letters.
Forget me. Forgive each kiss, caress, the sexual
Madness, those moments just holding hands. Take it back.

Back to books, up dreams’ thin branches I know must break—
To spill into this trelliswork I can’t get out
Of, I trace letters, though we know where stories head.


As the back rows start to scuffle home, I slouch back,
Shoes stuck in gum and soda pop, not quite walking out.
Credits roll, drifting up until their final letter
Ascends; a slap and spin of reels; houselights break
Illusions of eternal night. And I feel small
As ushers lumber by, telling me I must head

Home. What film must I now project inside my head,
In images where one’s never sure where flashbacks
End; narratives resume? The screen becomes a wall
And represents the long days of forgotten out-
Takes, false starts, stock footage, which the director breaks
From the real cut. Do the extras receive letters

If they’re among the lost? Or, no, they have no letters,
No names—sometimes, they possess no body, no head . . .
They are the faceless looking for their lucky break,
Betting their pretty faces will make them stars. Back
Into the night, gumshoeing alone, I’m looking out
For traffic instead of up at stars—the tall

Buildings near me press into a narrow hall
That is my heart, against which I hold your single letter:
A fuse-slow sadness burns through memory’s fade-outs.
The end of love’s enough to make you lose your head.
We long to return to its magnitude. —Why else go back
Again, again to gaze into its zooming break

-Ing shot, where the actress vanishes and breaks
Into a widening mise en abyme, which is al-
Most the whole world? Yet, the camera can only back
Track so far—a frame impinges sooner or later,
And where was once the brief vision of the godhead
We see the invidious limits of art. Out

Of ourselves we’re taken until there is no out,
No recourse but to inward grief. If the gods break
Our form, love returns us to our bodies: give head
-Way, take me in
, I asked. But you were tracing letters—
Asking me to guess them, and saying it was all
Or nothing. Each faint figure faded from my back.

Back-lit, I saw your face above, about to break
Down crying . . . Between images, all that’s left out
Is implied; let terms we part on move us ahead.

Will Cordeiro received his MFA from Cornell University where he is currently a Ph.D. candidate studying 18th century British literature. His work appears or is forthcoming in over fifty journals, including Baltimore ReviewBrooklyn Review, Jacket, Comstock Review, and Gulf Stream. He is grateful for residencies from Risley Residential College, Provincetown Community Compact, Ora Lerman Trust, and Petrified Forest National Park.


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