By Jeff Friedman
“Wake her up,” Sleeping Beauty’s sister says, “and she’s yours.” Sleeping Beauty sleeps quietly on a fluffy pillow. Around her, kings, princes and heroes form a circle, boasting of their exploits and their wealth. One took on a dragon without a weapon. Another slipped through the mist at night to capture an army by himself. Another impregnated a hundred virgins in a single week. And another says he made a love to a goddess and put her in a coma, so certainly his lovemaking can make this one rise from her bed. When a king from a faraway kingdom asks me what I have done to deserve this opportunity, I lie and tell him I killed a cyclops with a single stone from my slingshot. “That’s nothing to brag about,” he replies, “killing a blind man who can barely walk.” Sleeping Beauty’s sister collects cash from each of us, and then the kissing begins. Some peck her gently on the lips as if afraid to wake her. Some press their lips down on hers and kiss hard. Some blow into her as if giving her breath. Some suck her lips so hard her lips discolor and bruise. Others try to slip their tongues in. And others, like underwater divers, hold their kisses on her lips until both kisser and kissed appear to be turning blue. But none of the kissers wake her from her sleep; each one departs in sullen silence. “Give it your best shot,” the sister says. I lean in and give her a long breathy kiss. When my lips release hers, she sighs and opens her eyes. “Not you again,” she shouts and orders me off her bed, and now a new line of kissers is already forming.
Jeff Friedman has published six poetry collections, five with Carnegie Mellon University Press, including Pretenders (2014), Working in Flour (2011) and Black Threads (2008). His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Poetry International, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, Plume, Agni Online, The New Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish Poets, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Smokelong Quarterly, The Vestal Review, and The New Republic and many other literary magazines. He has won numerous awards, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship, the Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize, The Missouri Review Editor’s Prize, and two individual artist grants from the New Hampshire State Arts Council. Dzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. (Updated October 2015)
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