Bloomsbury Festival Day 9
Writer In Residence: Vanwy MacDonald Arif
Letter found with billet at the Foundling Hospital
Cinderella Pearl. Beloved bairn. Your
indigo eyes are like the sky when dawn
breaks from night, like the sea in winter. Your
hair changes, depending on how the light
kisses it. Now fire, now fair, now tawny.
What hue will your hair settle on? Your eyes?
Softer than spider’s silk, than fairy wings,
downy tresses caress your neck. The most
it will grow. I have seen the aproned girls
in white, starched tippets, shorn hair branding them.
Father unknown. There. I have written it.
It is not your shame. It is protection.
He must not buy your freedom. He wanted
merely to taste me. I loved you from the
first missed bleeding, the first bilious wave
and the first fatigue. Your token is my
silver thimble, for you to know that once
I was respected. I sewed in the manse,
for Godly folk. Or so it seemed. Know your
Mother’s needle dances, her thread obeys,
her skein blends rainbows. See how the upper
thimble is dimpled all for business.
Misery comes by the pricking of a
seamstress’s finger. One bloody driblet
spoils a garment. And her life. Garlands, and
ribbons swirl, enlace, form an undying
round, as is my promise to redeem you.
You are named for Cinderella. A girl
who rose from the ashes, freed herself from
stark servitude, wore warm cloth, ate more than
once a day, slept beneath her own roof. So
will you, my darling. Pearl. For the jewel.
Lustrous and bright. Like your hopes now I have
surrendered you. Study. Work hard. Think well
of me. We will meet again, cherished child.