Rapunzel’s Braid Hangs From A Sweater Factory in Brooklyn

Girls who cut their hair short to hide
from the eyes of men.
Rapunzel: those
gilded yellow braids, strong as corn husks, long enough to dangle into the East River outside her prison in an abandoned sweater factory.
A prison where girls worked in WWII till they burned to death in a fire
in one of those tragedies, locked doors so they would work without a pause
to smoke or dream of lovers in danger.

The prince was an artist in the neighborhood obsessed with
the ghosts of red-lipsticked beauties
with Victory Rolls in their hair. He painted renditions of their sorrows.
“One of them is still alive up there!” he cried.

He climbed up to the 4th floor and cocooned himself in Rapunzel’s glory with a comb.
His fetish awoke in that crown of spun flax silk. She became his doll.
No desire for anything
else: skin – throat – feet. He couldn’t recite
the colour of her eyes.

He screamed when the old witch-mother
cut off the shine and sold it to a wig maker.
“Grow it out again,” he begged. He bought her
minerals and vitamins to speed up the process. Silica.
He wanted to tie her to a chair and style her all day long.

“I’d rather a rubber catsuit,” Rapunzel said.
It was the first time she spoke above a whisper,
& his head cracked shock.
The weight was absent, no more headaches, and she was the one who made it out alive
There was so much more to discover.
She started making designs on her skin with knives,
to toughen the nerves, makeshift tattoos.
Skin grew brown, the locks remained shorn
as she roamed through the streets
unencumbered.