Elliott Bell

writer, poet, artist, expat

Month: April, 2017

Princess Ernestine

Princess Ernestine was not a real princess. She often thought about that fact, backstage in the green room before a show, or giving an interview with an obsequious reporter. A real Princess did not have to work three shows on weekends and seven per work week. A real Princess did not dance until her feet were sore and red and sometimes bled, nor be given a stern lecture for reading too long in the garden, when she could have been rehearsing. But Princess Ernestine was possibly the most convincing not-real Princess you’d ever heard of – in public, her tiny frame was surrounded by bodyguards, fending off her oft-over-enthusiastic adoring public. She had staff who managed what she wore, and ate. Only thirteen years old and already a stage sensation, she knew – as the adults often reminded her – how very lucky she was to be so talented, to be so famous so young.

Lately, before a show, Ernestine would make a very princess-like demand – to be left alone in her tower to meditate. Her tower, of course, was a small yet decadent room full of her clothes and makeup, a stool and a vanity, and a single door between her and the chaos of backstage, her name painted in cheap gold paint on it. But it was a tower enough. In actuality, Ernestine wasn’t even sure what meditation was. But it sounded very grown-up, the adults seemed charmed by it, and she liked that she could be alone for a little bit.

Tonight, as Ernestine sat alone in her room, she went over to her trunk and rummaged around. From the bottom, she took out a small wood case, where a porcelain music box sat protected with cotton fluff wool scraps. Her father had given her the music box as a ninth birthday present, just four years ago but to a thirteen year old, it was like another life. It might as well be, as far as her father was from her now. She ran her fingers along the delicate porcelain lid, gently wound the key at the back, and opened it. Within, a pale pink background faded behind a gorgeous, fragile figurine of a ballerina, en pointe and perfect. The tune that poured forth reminded Ernestine of the sound of the rain on the roof when she was younger, the way it smelled when her bedroom window was opened after the rain, fresh and pure. She began to hum and on a whim, mimicked to posture of the ballerina, en pointe – perfect, perfect as a princess. The music box played and song seemed to grow sorrowful, and Ernestine felt tears running down her face. Just like the ballerina in its box, when the music played, she danced. She danced and danced, a slave to the music as surely as if she were shackled to it. And like the Ballerina, the Princess was nothing more than a beautiful thing to dance, and then be shut away in the dark until the music played again.

Her toes aching, she collapsed, the music box tinkling as it slipped from her hand and hit the ground with a loud crack. Off-key, the music played on as she sobbed over the shattered pieces of the broken ballerina.


Missing Mishka

My darling little kitty-cat,

I know I said, “Stop doing that!

Don’t scratch the rug, or sit up there,

You mustn’t gnaw, or shred, or tear.”

But now that I am far away

Without you to gently scold,

I find I’m longing for the day

Where I’ve my naughty cat to hold.


Winter’s passed and gone are all

The muffled dreary days.

Spring’s arrived as the sky cries

‘Twixt bursts of sunny rays.

And though April’s moving I can’t wait,

For May to slip past soon.

I lie in wait for my Summer dream

To curl up in the warmth of June.

To Do List

What To Do?

I’ve not a clue.

I’m going through

This list that grows,

Each item making weight,

And waits, and wriggles past,

And I scramble to unlock gates

And shoo them through just as fast

As I can think of them, the never ending

Never stopping, growing tasks, that follow

Until I’m so behind and under them the force

Of their insistent cries drowns out all other noise

‘Til in a fury I grab my sword, and scream over them!

I grab one nearest and cut it down to non-existence

And I banish each to the void of finished tasks

As they run and shriek and flee and plead

I am a callous terror of burning need

To finish this terrible, rotten list

Of things that must be done,

Done one by one by one,

‘Til my To Do grows

To less than none

And I wonder

What to do?

I’ve not a clue…


Today I told a lovely fib,
As I cracked my white-lie smile
Inside I cracked another rib
As payment for my guile.

I gave no sign
Of my deceit designed,
Save a swallowed sigh –
The price of lies.


I wish
I wish
Were there ever two words
As hopeless as this?

I wish
I wish
Were there ever two words
As hopeful as this?

Leaning In

A breath, a touch, a sidelong glance
After each I had a chance,
Say stop, slow down, let’s hold back,
But with the years of love I lack,
I can’t, I couldn’t, I never will
Resist your warmth while holding still.
Instead I’ll lean into your heat
I seek to glow beneath these sheets,
My head resting above your heart,
And attempt again to restart.


Wind snaps my strings and off I go!

Pulled by gusts above, below –
To be a kite is a fine, fun thing,
But also rather frightening,
As all that ties me to the ground
Is a lonely string by which I’m bound.
You stroll up to it so casually
I flinch awaiting casualty,
No longer able to tell apart
Fear from hope inside my heart.


I didn’t know it was dark in here
‘Til you came in with light.
I thought that I could see just fine
With my gloom-adjusted sight.

But ever since you wandered in
Lantern in hand aglow,
I see the filth I’ve been living in
When before I did not know.

I hang my head, overwhelmed
By the mess I have to clean.
Wishing it were dark again,
It shames me to be seen.

You stand tall above me
Pristine lantern swaying
I fear this dank, dark dirt of mine
Will stain you just by staying.


The sun was warm upon my face
I closed my eyes and felt it’s grace
Warming me from inside out,
I lost myself, forgot my doubts
And let myself love the sun,
For September, we were one.

But now October is creeping in
And the air’s begun to chill,
The falling leaves reminding me
That there is winter still.

So I will guard inside of me
This ember not yet done,
Lit soft and unexpectedly
By the warm September sun.