by Anne Sexton
The poem begins with a series of small "example" stories about lucky folks who go from being in unfortunate (usually impoverished) circumstances to being very wealthy through some instance of luck—winning the sweepstakes, or being the love object of royalty, or collecting on insurance. From there we move on to the actual story of Cinderella.
The story follows the Grimms' version of the tale. After the death of her mother, Cinderella is relegated to being a housemaid by her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Her father lavishes his stepdaughters with lovely gifts but brings Cinderella only a twig. She places the twig on her mother's grave and it grows into a magical tree on which a magical dove sits. Anytime Cinderella wants something, she need only ask for it and the dove throws it down to her.
In Sexton's version, as in the Grimms', the famous Prince's ball is a three-day affair and Cinderella gets dresses and shoes from the dove for all three nights. On the final night, the Prince gets tired of not knowing where his beloved has gone and covers the steps of his palace with wax. As she's fleeing the ball on the last night, Cinderella's shoe sticks, leaving the Prince with his crucial piece of evidence.
In trying to find the woman who fits the shoe, the Prince (as in the Disney version) comes to Cinderella's house, and the stepsisters attempt to get their feet into the shoe. Unlike in the Disney version, however, in the Grimm/Sexton version, each sister cuts off a part of her foot to fit it into the shoe, and the blood pouring out of the shoe gives her away. Cinderella eventually tries on the shoe, it fits without any bloodletting, and she marries the Prince. At the wedding ceremony the dove pecks out the stepsisters' eyes (ew!). The Prince and Cinderella then live happily ever after—or so it seems.