[once upon a time]

Kate Schmitt

Snow White in her glass box is romantic because we are not the dwarves in mourning. We are not asked to imagine that reality; the fairy tale propels us forward to the kiss. We know the story won’t leave us standing alone above a rectangular mound of dirt because as soon as Once upon a time was uttered we were assured of happily ever after.

But imagine it. Think of the dwarves: men who toil in a dark mine and come home heavy-footed and covered in soot. A woman arrives like a sparrow and makes them a home. Both friend and mother, she fills the empty cupboards in their hearts. Then she is an empty building, a comma. Paused: absent, yet present in the world. A body, a ghost in a glass box.

They put you in a box, too, and time skipped forward, as time does. And the prince got re-married, and your children grew beautiful and strong as hammers and had children of their own. And then, Once upon a time, one of them was born with your poems in her mouth, your blue eyes and yellow hair.

You were my Sleeping Beauty, both bedtime story and spinning wheel: a princess and a shiny needle waiting.

- Excerpt from Singing Bones


In Praise of Singing Bones

“Like Persephone, Kate Schmitt is dragged to the Underworld, not by Hades but by her own DNA. This beautiful and heartbreaking memoir is addressed to the grandmother she never knew, a woman she resembles and whose demons she also shares. With meticulous, poetic language Schmitt describes her descent and her return to the world. My body is both castle and battlefield, she says, and the ensuing siege pits one woman against the deepest impulses of her own blood.”

The magic of this book is that a true heroine emerges, one who has braved the snares of the past and stepped into the present moment completely herself.”

—Barbara Hamby

“In these pages Kate Schmitt offers us a map for how to communicate with the dead. The dead, it seems, have always been talking to us—through letters, books, poems. Like a flash of lightning in the brain, Schmitt reveals that it is a two-way street, that if we are awake to music, to wonder, our words will allow us to talk to them as well. I picked up Singing Bones to simply see how it felt in my hands—a few hours later I put it down, strangely transformed, alive to the last command—Wake up.”

—Nick Flynn

“In these pages Kate Schmitt has alchemized a deep confrontation with despair into something generous and deeply rewarding to readers. Black Hades door stands open night and day, wrote Virgil; Schmitt shows us how that portal leads not only to pure darkness, but—if we are by turns vulnerable enough and strong enough—also toward an encounter with grief that can move us in the direction of genuine daylight.”

—Mark Doty

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