She wanted the books to be real,
her father a duke or an earl
and not the one she saw so rarely,
and when he was home
nothing but rough hands
and beer breath and grunts for words.
And why not a castle
so her two sisters could have their own rooms
leaving so much more space
for a closet full of her
silk dresses, gold tiaras.
And if her father was to die
why not in battle.
He was soldier after all,
almost a knight by her reckoning.
But it was cancer that fired
fifty rounds into his chest
and none of them were blanks
She was young enough
to crave fairyland,
not a cramped house with no yard,
not third grade, bullying girls,
not a mother pulling her
out of school at midday,
then trying to explain a death
in which no swords found their mark,
no one toppled from their steeds.
She had no wish to grow older,
not when she saw her elder sister
crying over a photo of their father in the Middle East,
in military uniform but without his rifle,
handing out gifts to children.
It was him all right
but she had never seen him so kind.
Yes he could have been a king.
The little girls might have been his subjects.
She didn’t burst into tears.
It was an illustration all right
but where was the underlying story?