Five Feminist Poems for National Poetry Month: 2. “Rose and Snow Tell the Field Their Troubles”


In our second poem for this year’s National Poetry Month, poet Jenny Factor voices two familiar female protagonists, Rose-Red and Snow White.

“Rose and Snow Tell the Field their Troubles” is a persona poem: The poet uses the voice of another character—here, the mythical characters from the Grimm fairy tales—to narrate a story. Giving new voices to female characters from mythology, fairy tales and the Bible is a strategy used historically by feminist poets, and as we see in Factor’s poem still an important strategy today. MMYD_MRVEvusRf9m8RHdniqak_Y6Qh2D94P3xBtgwo8In this poem, Factor rejects the usual ending of Rose and Snow killing the dwarf; rather she likens these two women to the Biblical men Isaac and Esau. Factor’s challenge to the traditional narrative and her intermingling of a fairy tale with a Biblical parable imbues her voice new authority to rewrite and retell women’s stories, which she does with bold panache.

Jenny Factor

Factor’s first collection, Unraveling at the Name, was a finalist for the 2002 Lambda Literary Award. With poems in the Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, and more than a dozen anthologies, including Not for the Academy: Lesbian Poets Speak Out, Poetry 180 and The Best American Erotic Poems, Factor’s poems have been honored with a Hayden Carruth Award and an Astraea Grant. Factor received her M.F.A. in Literature from Bennington College, and her BA from Harvard College. She serves as core faculty at Antioch University Los Angeles.


Rose and Snow Tell the Field their Troubles

They say we slayed the dwarf, but we didn’t have the courage.
They say Snow married the Bear, and I his brother.
It isn’t true. That story is just hollow.
We find ourselves every evening again in the field.

Like Isaac. Like Esau. The survivor. The hunter.
Who saw too much truth with their eyes. Went blind.
We like to wander through the field, the dusk
a kind of prayer, we pray because we are half-alive, are alive

Walking among the doll parts. The old shoes. Instead … we are
walking by a fur coat, stripped daily of more flesh.
Snow of silence couldn’t learn to bless.
I of speech could never find my solace. (Or is it silence? … )

And that fur coat fell off in the ice cut grass
as the body left the body. Those who work the fields,
who harvest what the field yields, harvest up
souls and souls. The dwarf is the dwarf forever.

The forest holds to the forest’s curse.
There is no body of triple horn and surrender.
So throw out the carpet, don the musky sweater.
Beat at the wood floors with a broom and pan.

Every part of a woman can be held in your hands:
even marigold. Even lavender. So … remember.
Marry the small parts to the big story.
We all wake alone at the end of December.

“Rose and Snow Tell the Field their Troubles” Copyright Jenny Factor, reproduced with the permission of the author.

Snow White painting courtesy of maryannjulian via Creative Commons 2.0.

Additional Links:

“Pride Diary” by Jenny Factor; West Coast correspondent at Best American Poetry

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Julie R. Enszer is a scholar and poet. She's currently the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. Julie's research has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern CulturesJournal of Lesbian StudiesAmerican PeriodicalsWSQFrontiers and other journals; she is the author of the poetry collections AvowedLilith’s DemonsSisterhood and Handmade Love and the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry.