Pins & Needles No. 10 Cybele Knowles

Pins & Needles

bad wolf
© A.T. Velazco


“Which path are you going to take,” asked the wolf,
“the path of needles or the path of pins?”

No. 10: Cybele Knowles

Fairy tale settings 101: are you more of a forest or castle person?

Forest person, definitely. I see this from a personal safety point of view. Sure, in the forest, a wolf or witch might eat you for food. Or you might accidentally piss off a vengeful tree and then have to deal with that situation. This is child’s play compared to what happens at the castle, where your mom might enslave you and your dad is probably also your pimp. Or, say, you have an important spell you’re working on and it’s taking a lot of your time and attention; your husband can decide you’re no fun anymore and just order your execution. He has the right. The castle is a gendered space, and it is not for us girl persons. There’s a makeshift dungeon in the turret. The throne room is a permanent crime scene. The filthy kitchen contains boiling pots and cleavers. A restraining order is just a piece of paper. Home is where the fear is. You can find me in the forest with my animal friends.

Your poem “Reverie” refers to the crystal self. Please elaborate on the potentialities, perceptions and limits of this existence. 

The phrase “crystal self” popped into my head before any meaning did. I liked the phrase and wrote it down. As I was doing so, several possible meanings for the phrase presented themselves; I told them to go away and come back later.

Now that the act of composition is over, I see several possible meanings in “crystal self.” I’m loath to say them because I feel that any meaning that presents itself to a reader is just as valid as the ones that present themselves to me. But since you were good enough to ask, I’ll share that for me, “crystal self” could mean a future ideal self, a lost original self, the big-picture view of our existence that is impossible (or nearly) to take, a faceted complexity, or completely imaginary construct.

The next best thing to living happily ever after is…

I don’t think you’re going to like hearing this. I certainly didn’t when I first heard about it from the enchanted stone. It turns out that the alternative to the Happy Ending is the Noble Work.

At first blush, “Noble Work” sounds okay, but it turns out that the Noble Work isn’t as simple as just becoming an emergency room nurse, public defender, or experimental poet. Your Noble Work might be learning to feel a tiny bit of love for someone you fear or look down on. It may be bravely letting go of the one and only precious concept you’ve held to tightly your whole life. It might be learning to turn yourself into this humility/courage Moebius strip–style paradox that allows you to just get through the day. The Noble Work is usually a welter of multiple Noble Tasks that exist at the same time in direct conflict with each other and need to be action-itemed, negotiated, prioritized, and tracked. The Noble Work is done strictly for its own sake. A spell is performed towards a rewarding goal or positive outcome; the Noble Work just unavoidably is. 

The Noble Work sucks and is very, very hard. It is only tolerable because of LOLs. Have you ever noticed that there isn’t a lot of comedy in fairy tales? Fairy tales don’t need comedy because they are not about the Noble Work. But here, in the zone of Noble Work, comedy is our most useful art form.

Interview conducted by Fairy Tale Review Poetry Editor Jon Riccio.

Cybele Knowles’ poem “Reverie” appears in The Emerald Issue of Fairy Tale Review. 


I turned from the brink
and grew very tall.
Entering a forest,
I brushed with my fingers
the soft spire of every uppermost leaf.
I came upon you there –
a resident of the wood, a handsome tree.
Thinking at first that I was the wind,
you rustled hello with branches that breathed.
I folded my length beneath you;
for me, you spread a cloak of shade upon the green.
When I touched your bark-clad flank,
you woke into my world, skin from leaf.
The shudder of sap turning to blood in your veins
shook the birds from your hair,
and you fell, as if by ax, to me!
Then we talked about
the crystal self, clouds we have known,
ball lightening, what it’s like to die –
talking fast because we felt it near:                 change
coming to spin us into different dimensions,
booming like an iron wheel.
Soon you will be a wrinkle
on the surface of the sea, and I, a rose;
you will be yellow, and I, a lion’s roar.
We won’t even remember we once
were a giant, and a tree, and friends,
and talked; our conversation a fanfare
with and against that aleatoric moan,
that terrible blare, dark hymn of always,
music of the spheres.