Now and then by Sabrina Vourvoulias

Now and then
By Sabrina Vourvoulias


Wind it around me, I say,
I can take it.

Only the young
and very stupid say this.

Or believe that magic will remain
smooth and thick and
a joy to lick off the lips.


Rose petals.
Rose hips.
Rose of Castile. Wild
and briar rose.
A hodge-podge list
from Larousse:
arcane gastronomy
or foreign spell book.
What kind of fairy god
mother snares with such?

Sleep, she says, and
who said anything about God.


New canes sprout
from an old wooden trunk.
Spongiform heart, skin turned
bark, the girth of age.

Can it be saved, wonders
the horticulturist.
It still gives flowers,
though none will call them princess
roses. It was only a name
on the price tag anyway.

Prune it, suggests a colleague.

Magic might cut through
the thicket.
But not a knife.
Not a machete.
Not even a two-handed sword,
tempered in blood and
christened with a proper


I dream of the kiss.
But the release
is not as imagined.
The magic that pours
into my mouth
bites like gall.

Wake up.

It is my own voice
that turns dead wood
back to flesh.

What are these brambles
wrapped so tight
they have become veins?

What are these thorns
spiked through my heart?

What are these tender buds
so long into winter?


It was a gift,
the fairy godmother says,
A rest and a wakening. See?
—I hurt.—
Her laugh carries the whiff
of cardamom and cayenne,
of shaggy cinnamon
from other lands.
Do you taste it, she asks.
Magic as it changes.
Sharp and bitter.
Sour, sweet and salt.
All together,
on your tongue.

Sabrina Vourvoulias was born in Bangkok, Thailand—the daughter of a Guatemalan-Mexican artist and an American businessman—but grew up in Guatemala. She moved to the United States when she was 15 and studied fiction at Sarah Lawrence College (in Bronxville, N.Y.) with Allan Gurganus, and poetry with Jane Shore and John Skoyles. Her poems have been published in Graham House Review (11 and 13) and in the We’Moon calendar. Most of her publication credits and writing awards have been for her work as staff writer and editor of small local newspapers in New York State and Pennsylvania. She lives in Glenmoore, Pa. with her husband and daughter.

IMAGE: Little Red Riding Hood Arrives at the Door of Her Grandmother’s House, Albumen print, Henry Peach Robinson, 1858.