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The Tinder Box

by Woody Long

Stop here and listen to an ancient whore
by a hollow tree on the road from war.
Climb down to a hall of a hundred blazing lights,
three doors, three treasure chests, three dogs with eyes
as big as saucers, mill wheels, the great round tower.
Find the magical tinderbox of power.
Strike once, strike twice, strike three times, and behold —
ransoms of copper and silver and gold.

And then in the sweet night, in the hidden hour,
the hoard stowed away in your worn knapsack,
the princess asleep on the running dog’s back
trailing a telltale stream of buckwheat flour,
then ride high and handsome in a royal bed,
forget the bloody road, the old hag dead.

Woody Long is retired and lives in Arlington, Virginia.

See links to all sonnets by this author

Original illustration by Helen Stratton, circa 1910
Published 29 March 2011