When Alice falls
I place a ribbon in my book
and walk through flowers
too wild for gardens.
When my sister dives
headfirst into another world
I take down my hair
and face the woods.
I don’t have time—
an hour at most, before Alice returns
taking the door she opened
and shutting it again.
I leave the flowers behind
with my book and dear little Alice.
In the woods, I breathe again.
So little time.
I find your clearing and coat:
grey fur, red trim.
I follow your footprints
my breath short and wanting.
Your cottage shines even in daylight:
bright and open and smelling of sugar
Shedding your coat, I go inside.
Alice floats in a sea of her making
and I find you at your grandmother’s oven.
We have so little time—Alice growing
big again, entangled in houses too small.
Our clothes cover the floor
and I count the minutes before
this world closes, before
the cards collapse.
Alice is playing croquet;
I am tangled in fingers and sheets
that smell of wolves.
Alice is angry. I am in love.
Before the court gathers
you kiss my left breast
and braid my hair, leaving me
so I won’t see how you disappear.
Under the apple tree
I retrieve my book, face flushed,
heart curling to see you,
aching to lose you again.
When Alice climbs back into sleep
her head in the sunshine
I know you’ve gone—
your world closed, your cottage lost.
I no longer fit in holes in the ground
and mirrors are too shallow
Alice is quick. She is small.
Her dreams grow large enough
to carry ours
Marisca Pichette is a queer creator of monsters and magic. More of her work has appeared and is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, Fireside Magazine, Fusion Fragment, Solarpunk Magazine, Uncharted Magazine, PseudoPod, and PodCastle, among others. She lives in Western Massachusetts, surrounded by bones and whispering trees.
Author of “While Alice sleeps in Wonderland”
What inspired you to write this poem?
Since I re-read Carroll’s work in college, I’ve been so inspired by the intricacies of Alice’s story. I like playing with Wonderland symbols in poetry, but I’ve explored them in long form as well. Over the pandemic I wrote a novel-length work telling the backstory of the Queen of Hearts (This is on the back burner as I focus on other projects, but one day I’ll return to it). In July, I’ll be presenting at the Once and Future Fantasies Conference in Glasgow about the rhymes in Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking Glass.
I love so many aspects of Alice’s story, but there’s one character who has a very small part: Alice’s sister. This poem grew out of a question I asked myself: what did she do, while Alice went to Wonderland? Did she really read her book, or was there more to the story?
What do you hope readers take from this poem?
I like to think that this poem opens the door to adult magic. It bridges fairy tales, of course, but it also promises hope for those who’ve been left out of them. Queer people, and girls who’ve grown too big for bunnies and kittens. What stories do we want to write for ourselves? What adventures can we have?
To give other writers hope, would you mind sharing with us how many edits and/or submissions this poem has been through?
This poem is a rare beast. I wrote the first draft, shared it with my writing friend, and only lightly edited it before submission. It was rejected from just two magazines before I submitted it to Apparition. Alice–and her sister–found the perfect home here.
Recommend something to us! This could be a book, a short story, a video game, a project you’ve heard about, something you’re working on, etc. Anything that has you excited and that you want people to know about.
There’s so much! This poem is partly inspired by the work of Theodora Goss, who frequently tells the stories that have been left out of traditional fairy tales. I’d also like to recommend another magical poem, in a recent issue of Strange Horizons: “Mother Wicked” by Dyani Sabin. And if you want to bring some fairy tale magic into your life, I recommend getting a subscription to Enchanted Living, a quarterly publication delivering wonderful articles, gorgeous photography, and juicy concoctions to your door. I was honored to have a poem printed in the Winter 2021 issue, with the theme of Decadence. The issue for this spring is appropriately themed Fairy Tales.