The princess’ story

My daddy was wonderful, she says.
I remember as a little girl sitting in his lap,
my head on his chest, loving the smell of
his cherry pipe tobacco on his shirt.
He would read his paper and stroke my hair
and later, before bed, he would brush it,
counting out loud: one, two, a hundred.
When he checked in on me, I would
pretend to be asleep and not, as usual,
reading after lights out. He would gently
lift the bangs from my eyes and say,
Princess, enough! It’s time to go to sleep,
but still I would pretend, it was our little game.
Then, when I was fourteen and he showed me
it wasn’t a game anymore, I cut my hair
the next day, and when he got angry
I yelled back that it was because I never
wanted him to touch me again. I had never
seen him cry before and after that he never
saw me cry again, although we both did,
often, alone, but after a while, I stopped.
I mean, why bother?

Today, my daughter also has beautiful hair
but I keep hers short too. And while she will
never know the smell of cherry pipe tobacco
rising from the heat of a heartbeat,
she will never be trapped in her own tower
or be fooled into thinking that the brave knight
can’t also be the clawing dragon.
It doesn’t matter that the knight got lung cancer
and rode his guilt into the grave.
I still love him, but it doesn’t matter.


The writer Tim O’Brien once distinguished between happened truth, when the events actually occurred, and story truth, where the events may have happened in parts to several people and which, at least, summarize the essence of a real experience or experiences.

The princess’ story is not, to my direct knowledge a happened truth, but it is a story truth. In fact, there are tiny bits of things I have picked up from several people in this poem.

As to its subject all I know is that there is too much abuse and pain in this world. We must make it stop.

Thank you for reading Short, very short, and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

The photograph is entitled Rapids and was taken in Putnam, CT. For more photography, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © 2014 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2014 by John Etheridge, The photograph is not licensed for use or reproduction in any way, unless so granted in writing by the copyright owner.


Filed under Poetry

10 responses to “The princess’ story

  1. Christine Kalafus

    Oh, John. Moving and painfully poignant.

    • Thank you dear! Not an easy poem to write, as it turned out, too. The basic idea was there from the start but getting it to flow and get the nuances of emotion balanced…not easy. I think the saddest and most mind boggling thing is just how common the basic premise of the story is. That is the real tragedy.

  2. Powerful, piercing. Wounded princess, a wounded dad? A wounding dad? This one rocks my world, if only for a bit.

    • T, dang! You know I didn’t make the conscious connection of the importance of the word “princess” to the story, but you are right, it is perfect. In fact, that is a far better title for the poem than the one I ended up with. Thank you! I am going to re-name it now.

  3. That was such a striking poem, John, and it seemed different to me than usual!

    • Thank you dear! It was not an easy poem to write, and while I do not claim it to be profound, I am satisfied that it is the best that I can do to bring light and emotion to a terrible scourge in our society. Plus, by ‘different’ I hope you mean…but don’t let me put words in your mouth…”a new sense of poetic vision that begs the heart to weep, the spirit to take notice and the soul to ring.” Wow, I may quote you on that some day! 🙂
      Well, I have been trying to spread my wings lately and look for a new direction. Did you read my post, A must read for poets? That is sort of what got me going on trying something…anything…new.