Author's Note: Fun fact, this poem was inspired by Sleeping Beauty. Specifically, by the versions of the story where the entire castle goes to sleep for a hundred years until the prince comes. I started thinking about what would happen to a castle that was left alone for a hundred years in real life, and this was the result.
once upon a time
Once upon a time a grand castle stood
on the shores of a roaring ocean.
Once upon a time light blazed from the windows,
carriages clattered over the cobblestones,
dresses swished and capes fluttered,
the air rang with voices and peals of laughter.
Once upon a time ships sailed past the castle,
bringing silk and spices and many strange things.
Once upon a time a lighthouse stood
on a tall cliff, sending its rays
to guide ships safely to shore.
Once upon a time great trees reached for the sky
behind tall stone walls.
Once upon a time children ran through long grass,
past fragrant flower beds,
to climb those trees.
Once upon a time the windows were unbroken,
the carpets were soft underfoot,
the walls papered and painted.
Once upon a time bells rang in the towers
and fires burned in the hearths.
Once upon a time…
But not today.
Today a curse dwells in the castle
like a creeping vine.
Today the ocean is quiet and always still
near the shore.
Today no light shines through
the empty windows.
Today no ships sail by,
and the moths and maggots eat the goods they brought.
Today the lighthouse
is a crumbling ruin.
Today no bright beam
pierces the dark night.
Today the trees are blighted and withered,
and will break if you try to climb them.
The walls are covered with ivy and thorns.
Today no children run or laugh,
snakes lurk in the long grass,
and the flowerbeds have vanished beneath the weeds.
Today the windows have no glass
to keep out the howling wind.
The carpets have rotted away,
the paint peeled, the paper faded.
Today the bells are rusted and silent,
and rooks build their nests in the chimneys.
But not forever.