by Ann Sexton

You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
That story.

Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son’s heart.
from diapers to Dior.
That story.

Or a milkman who serves the wealthy,
eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk,
the white truck like an ambulance
who goes into real estate
and makes a pile.
From homogenized to martinis at lunch.

Or the charwoman
who is on the bus when it cracks up
and collects enough from the insurance.
From mops to Bonwit Teller.
That story.

the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed
and she said to her daughter Cinderella:
Be devout. Be good. Then I will smile
down from heaven in the seam of a cloud.
The man took another wife who had
two daughters, pretty enough
but with hearts like blackjacks.
Cinderella was their maid.
She slept on the sooty hearth each night
and walked around looking like Al Jolson.
Her father brought presents home from town,
jewels and gowns for the other women
but the twig of a tree for Cinderella.
She planted that twig on her mother’s grave
and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat.
Whenever she wished for anything the dove
would drop it like an egg upon the ground.
The bird is important, my dears, so heed him.

Next came the ball, as you all know.
It was a marriage market.
The prince was looking for a wife.
All but Cinderella were preparing
and gussying up for the event.
Cinderella begged to go too.
Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils
into the cinders and said: Pick them
up in an hour and you shall go.
The white dove brought all his friends;
all the warm wings of the fatherland came,
and picked up the lentils in a jiffy.
No, Cinderella, said the stepmother,
you have no clothes and cannot dance.
That’s the way with stepmothers.

Cinderella went to the tree at the grave
and cried forth like a gospel singer:
Mama! Mama! My turtledove,
send me to the prince’s ball!
The bird dropped down a golden dress
and delicate little slippers.
Rather a large package for a simple bird.
So she went. Which is no surprise.
Her stepmother and sisters didn’t
recognize her without her cinder face
and the prince took her hand on the spot
and danced with no other the whole day.

As nightfall came she thought she’d better
get home. The prince walked her home
and she disappeared into the pigeon house
and although the prince took an axe and broke
it open she was gone. Back to her cinders.
These events repeated themselves for three days.
However on the third day the prince
covered the palace steps with cobbler’s wax
and Cinderella’s gold shoe stuck upon it.
Now he would find whom the shoe fit
and find his strange dancing girl for keeps.
He went to their house and the two sisters
were delighted because they had lovely feet.
The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on
but her big toe got in the way so she simply
sliced it off and put on the slipper.
The prince rode away with her until the white dove
told him to look at the blood pouring forth.
That is the way with amputations.
They just don’t heal up like a wish.
The other sister cut off her heel
but the blood told as blood will.
The prince was getting tired.
He began to feel like a shoe salesman.
But he gave it one last try.
This time Cinderella fit into the shoe
like a love letter into its envelope.

At the wedding ceremony
the two sisters came to curry favor
and the white dove pecked their eyes out.
Two hollow spots were left
like soup spoons.

Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
That story.

49 responses to “Cinderella

  1. The ending was hilarious.
    Lived, they say, happily ever after, like two dolls in a museum case never bothered by diapers or dust, never arguing over the timing of an egg, never telling the same story twice, never getting a middle-aged spread,
    This version of Cinderella is much better.

  2. I have never believed in a happily ever after ending because no matter what in life there will always be hardships and painful experiences everyone has to go through no matter who they are.

  3. Bad comes with good. Such is life. It is odd how people value social status and wealth over the power of quality and people around. Personally, I care more for people and love instead of wealth and status because I think good people bring all that to a person but in a different way.

  4. this is a much more adult version of the story cinderella. it is a nice twist to the original version bc of the ending which makes you think if there really is a happily ever after.

  5. In the familiar more traditional version, Cinderella is a poor maid girl that, with the help of fairy godmother, gets a chance to meet prince charming. They fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after, and then what? What is a happily ever after? Is this even a realistic thought? In the dark comedic poem Cinderella, Anne Sexton forces the reader to examine this question.

  6. This is an adult-rated version of Cinderella in which the author utilizes our familiarity of the story to retell the story in the form of a poem. The author uses sarcasm all over the place to inject drama into the story and make it sound interesting to the grown-up audience, yet another masterpiece of literary work!

  7. I enjoyed this version of Cinderella. It is very descriptive and I loved the small injections of Sexton’s sarcasm.

  8. The poem brings up such a great point! The flaw in the fairytale. All of these stories sound wonderful and even enlightening. The lowly girl gets rescued from her terrible family and enjoys a life of bliss because she deserves it, after all. The reality of life gets pushed to the side because no one likes to think about it.

  9. I love this twist on Cinderella. Being familiar of ourse, with the original, this poem paints a vivid picture to what’s going on. My favorite part is when the sisters were tring to fit their foot into the slipper. Having to cut off a toe and a heel.

  10. This poem is very easy to paint a picture in your head. Growing up “Cinderella was a story known all over. I would watch the movie all the time. This poem is basically the movie but in writing. The ironic part is that these stories don’t happen, if so, vary rarely. Cinderella does not get the prince in the world and the plumber does not win the sweeptakes. In our world he is simply just a plumber with a crazy amount of children.

  11. This poem is easy to understand for the general population because everyone knows “Cinderella.” The twist is that this was the darker and more violent story of Cinderella which made it interesting because the visual of the whole poem was there just had to add a few other details that dealt with blood.

  12. its a really good poem I remember watching this as a little kid, brings back a couple memories. anyways this poem shows that eventually things will pay off with just a bit of patience. a good lesson is learned here through this poem.

  13. This poem shows the world just have a little hope in life and a blessing will come at the right time.

  14. This poem was interesting ,what i mostly enjoyed about this poem was that it contained a dark side to the Cinderella version. For example, the stepsisters got “pecked their eyes out”, and the stepsister who “amputated” her toe in order to fit in the shoe, were extremely vivid. Overall, the concept of the Cinderella poem were alike the Cinderella movie.

  15. Being dependent, living in a dream that may never be true and waiting for prince charming. The “Cinderella” fairytale is a story I really don’t understand. Why? Why play movies like this to young girls? Why read them fairytales all the time? im not trying to sound like an evil old grouch, however, Kids are influenced by what they see and hear. Why influence your daughter in believing in a prince charming to depend on? Why not influence her to become an independent woman who still can love a man but not depend on him?

  16. This poem brings back a lot of childhood memories. This is a poem that can teach children no matter how unfairly they are treated they still have to do what they are told and they will be rewarded for their good deeds.

  17. Ahhh…Cinderella. The story that tells little girls they must change who they are in order to be good enough for a man. Same thing goes for The Little Mermaid. This poem does that some justice.

  18. The poem starts out like all these fantasies like it’s too good to be true. Then when I started reading the poem its just like the actual movie of course there’s some parts that were different and more in depth. For example, when Cinderella would go to her mothers grave and the white dove would send down a dress and some shoes. I really enjoyed reading this poem.

  19. I love all of the Disney princess stories and Cinderella is a personal favorite. I so however like how the sister’s got actual punishment for their disgusting actions. This mainly showed that what goes around definitely does come around.

  20. Reality is….there is good and bad.
    The sisters were bad and dealt a bad ending.
    Cinderella after being poorly treated did not retaliate and received a bright wish. If you deal in bad things then bad things will come to you.

  21. This poem to me just represents hope. The other thing that this poem tells me is, pure greed and laziness on the stepmothers part and her Al Sharpton looking daughters. Yes, Al Sharpton before his weight loss. But anyway, we all know of someone who has been through this, or maybe we have gone through this horrible injustice of human passion. The father plays a big part in this story, his wife has died and he has disregarded his daughter. People always talk about how Cinderella was treated, what about her poor excuse of a father. Yes I said it, he is a poor excuse of a father letting this woman treat his blood child like that, and him turning his back at their actions.

  22. So, Cinderella and her prince turn into wax dolls at the end? The end of their bloody story is frozen. The drama doesn’t continue. Many people have the unreasonable expectation that after marrying the person of their dreams their problems are at an end. The fairy tales ending with, “Happily ever after” offer a false vision and false expectations. I married my true love and my marriage and life are still a lot of work. The efforts are worth it. As we grow and struggle together we find peace and happiness.

    • This story reminds me a lot of the musical “Into the Woods”. While the first half is about the stories that Disney tells, the second half of the play shows what happens after the “Happy ever after”. There is struggle on both sides and no one is happy at the end. While there can be happiness after marriage, and there usually is, it is not a guarantee.

  23. It is a lovely poem. This remind me so much about the Disney Cinderella film except the part about the wax and the pigeons attacking the two sister.

  24. I remember reading this poem of Cinderella a long time ago and loving it. It’s a lot more different than the Disney take. It’s very dark in how the stepsisters start to cut off pieces of their feet in order to fit the slipper. In the end the stepsister get their eyes plucked out for all the things they did to poor Cinderella, truly a lovely ending.

  25. I personally love the beginning of the poem. Ann introduces a distinctive Cinderella story by giving examples of lucky people that have risen in social classes. It is also very obvious that this usually does not happen in society. However, we know of stories like this that have been real and the incentive us to keep on going to school and working hard. This version of Cinderella is more realistic. This Cinderella is based more on faith then on luck. Since the beginning of Cinderella is told that she will be protected by her mother once she is in heaven. Cinderella knows that there is an angel protecting and watching over her if she stays devout and good. Cinderella’s life is not an easy one because once she had everything (as a kid) and later with her stepmother and stepsisters she does not have much. In my point of view every time he wishes is when she actually prays. This is my rational explanation of why her wishes actually come true. This poem has a satire especially when she talks about the stepsisters being so desperate to fit in the shoes that they actually get hurt. Great version of Cinderella, definitely not Disney!

  26. This is definitely not the Cinderella story I watched as a young girl , i feel like this is the real deal ! I like how the poem starts off by stating all of those rags to riches stories we always hear of. This Cinderella poem symbolizes how people will do anything to get something valuable .

  27. This is a very nice story of rags to riches. This story is mild relative to the other versions.

  28. Damn this is definitely not a Disney movie. You would have to be pretty desperate to cut off you own toe. However once you get past the mutilation and eye gouging this is a story that mocks the idea of a fairly tale. Those last few lines are the most important because they are almost sarcastic to show how life isn’t like some story you read in a book.

  29. This version is almost exactly like the classic tale of Cinderella by the Grimm Brothers. I prefer Grimm brothers to this one! The father does not die in the Grimm’s story, Cinderella is deformed & the prince recognizes her face in the end. Both versions share the same message however. Cinderella’s mother tells her on her dying bed to be pious and good and if so, she will always be protected, guided, and then her wishes will come true. So essentially, live a virtuous life and be kind to others regardless of what harm they may do to you because good things will come to you eventually.

  30. the vivid picture I was able to paint in my head while reading this story was awesome. this a a great story that was able to bring characters to life rather than just have them playing a role. this version of cinderella is offering the second story to cinderella, because everyone says that there are always two sides to a story.

  31. At first when reading this, I thought it was charming the way the author wrote. She writes in a way where she includes the sensory details of her characters. Reading further, the sensory details are more interesting. The eldest step sister cut off her big toe only because she was trying to make more space to fit in. I enjoy stories that offer some interesting twist rather than reading a story that only informs.

  32. I like this version of Cinderella, especially the ending with the smiles passing on for eternity. Male and female faces, living happily ever after. I like how the poet contrasted Cinderella’s stepsisters forceful attempt to happiness with Cinderella’s effortless and perfect fit. I especially like those images – the bloody, amputated feet and Cinderella’s foot fitting like a love letter fitting in its envelope.

  33. The fact that in the beginning he talks about different stories in one stanza is his away of saying how everyone knows what happens in the end of every story of someone who is poor but then magically becomes rich and happy, however, he choose to use Cinderella and add a twist to it, but again the ending was the same ideal of living happily ever after.

  34. This poem reminds me that although there may be different versions to a stroy or fairytale the message is almost always the same. The story of Cinderella teaches young girls that although life may be unfair or difficult if you are kind hearted and fair your dreams may eventually come true.

  35. This poem was similar to the classic cinderella story but different in it’s own way. I liked how this poem was easy to understand and not too long to drift away the reader.

  36. Aww, I remember watching this movie when I was a small little girl. My childhood remain throughout Disney Princesses. This poem contains the same story line, but has a small portion of different things such as the golden dress. In other words this poem is pretty good and fun… in my eyes since it brings back memories. đŸ™‚

  37. Same story different way of portraying it. I have always loved princesses stories.

  38. Ive allways liked the message that comes from this story so reading it as a poem aswell was really cool. Think this is one of the times that i liked the poem better.

  39. The poem version of cinderella is a little different but I dig it! We can one way or another get a sense of familiarization with this poem.

  40. I always watched Cinderella cartoon with my sister it always looked boring but it’s interesting how they have the poem for it as well.

  41. i like how they also have the poem version of this story. it shows how great of a story it is to kids and people that have grown up listening to it.

  42. Very interesting, now the Cinderella story has a poem. I have notice that many other stories have been inspired by Cinderella. It seems that people do not get tire of this fairy tale.

  43. i like this poem a lot better than the movie, more life like and more realistic very great poem a lot more visuals and some can even relate to it.

  44. There are always the stories about how people went from the bottom to the top. But just like everything else that happens in life with every good thing that happens, there is an equal bad.

  45. This poem was interesting! Iam not exactly sure what my thought on it are though… I did like the differences in the poem though!

  46. I like how the poem starts off by short stories about life situations , rather then “once upon a time…” like the actual movie. This poem had some minor diffrences to the movie. The poem was a bit more descriptive, and interesting. I really loved it!

  47. Sexton wrote basically how life really is; This was a different begining and ending to the story which i liked because it is never portrayed in this manner.

  48. I read this poem to my five year old daughter because she likes princesses, so much she named her dog Cinderella! She loved this poem! I read it to her twice!

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