Elegy for the Self as Villeneuve’s Belle

I wish I didn’t hunger for this so badly

that I would have one so unripe, my plea

for it out of season. We should have both waited.

But we simply couldn’t be sated

by patience. Wanting pretty things is hunger, too,

and having is feasting, denied by few.

A rose alone was all my heart arose to ask.

I wish I offered any other task.


She offers me a love, constructs her heavy feasts,

our hearts’ loads both doubly or more increased,

we share a dim-hoped home for all our harried dreams.

I listen stilly, counsel naked screams

while nurturing a hope of love so high and fae

in this home that it anchors me to stay.

I count her gargoyle-scars, try salving each one’s source

in the prayer that it smooths romance’s course


after my anxious picking out of its season.

I patch the wounds with pages, with reason;

I knew what I was getting into when I came.

I thought that time would be breeze to the flame.

But upon arrival, what would greet me before

but pageantry and handsomeness galore!

To find the filling of any whim I’d foster

without a call of what it had cost, her


eagerness to share a table, be unfearsome,

unspool some deeper starmap or theorem

to the core of her tragic heats, her imprinting

on other bodies’ loves and fears sinking

through their depths, transmitting from campus roofs, cyan

images of seraphs’ full wingspan,

or any of the other pinprick-dreams at four

in the morning that she’d meekly endure.


I saw her wrestle with tea plates, scream the channels

of ink angels, call me out of panels

for fear of what would make of me if I stayed too

long. Wanting pretty things is hunger. You

must imagine I looked to be in this mess all

my own—my rose-begging made this my home.

And you’d not be mistaken. I dreamt of beauty

open and consuming me as duty,


casket-lips to sleep within forever enrapt.

Well, this is what clasped shut—the petals snapped

upon me wriggling. All I have now are dreams

of the beauty-thing coming to me, beams

of awe and clawlessness that trigger guilts in me.

What about the host here that I can see?

How greedy am I? To want a calm without the roar,

to wish to not walk a glass-cragged floor?


Isn’t love patience? Am I just the kind of thing

that impatiently keeps petal-plucking,

that makes the rose about me and gnashes at thorns?

That loves the feast, and bathes the host in scorns?

Just like a man, a child, a bitter babe like me.

Wanting pretty things is hunger. Carefree

and willing to do anything to earn this rose.

I guess at least I held to what I chose.


When she opens roars in sleep, I tend to each cry.

I wash the plates, I wipe the glasses dry.

I beg for home, but soft, when she erases their

numbers from the phone and calls it trust; share

reluctance to even venture past the garden

gates, to not watch her narrow heart harden.

But I need to see home, to share the joy and pang

of this one rose’s crimson and its fang.


They beg me stay a month, and weakly I say yes.

The weight of love must take more rest, I guess.

They tell me this attachment escapes their belief.

But here I am, at dinner. Their relief

can warm a time-cooled mug. They beg me stay four weeks

more. That won’t hurt her, no? The night air speaks

on her behalf—a threat that my distance steals her

breath, that if I meant it, I would defer


to her horses, or her blade, come castleward swift,

or admit my bitter heart has made a shift.

I cling to the dream, of wolf-lady lying still.

I wonder of the other princess-dream’s will.


Would that girl ever cry that love means sharing thorns?

Would that girl look as pushful under horns?

The lady of the castle fumes for me to die

and prove I’d dash my own calm at her cry.

I refused. What kind of belle did I think I was?

O, I must have broken all the soft laws

that make a prince—why turn your back on such a dear?

Once claws and lashes come, you cry out fear?

I stay a while of weeks at home without a plea.


I long for love still, this time silently.

I choose the humble warmth of books, hearth, the younger

dream-rose. Wanting pretty things is hunger.



Brandon O’Brien

Brandon O’Brien is a writer, performance poet, teaching artist, and game designer from Trinidad and Tobago. His work has been shortlisted for the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions and the 2020 Ignyte Award for Best in Speculative Poetry, and is published in Uncanny Magazine, Fireside Magazine, Strange Horizons, and New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean, among others. He is the former Poetry editor of FIYAH: A Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. His debut poetry collection, Can You Sign My Tentacle?, available from Interstellar Flight Press, is the winner of the 2022 Elgin Award.

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