by Chuck Rybak
Pity did not draw us to her, did not call us to soothe the pale creature. It was the hazel tree. Fresh tree. Tear-grown tree. Born from great loss. Mother loss. The fruit stunned. Its strange taste unvoiced us on the branches. Hardship salt. Grief salt. We’d never gorged ourselves on strife so seasoned. Grateful, we picked her lentils from the ashes. From her cinderbed. We reaped two more bowls in the stroke of a breeze and cared not that she cried. She scrubbed and bled and wailed while her straw sisters laughed from the stairs. While her mock mother stood stern. More tears. More fruit. More hazelnut that bettered hazelnut. Yet, this creature compelled us to honor her, to garnish her with dresses. Threads culled from silver catkins. Gold catkins. Living nest. As we strung her into song we saddened with the loss of tears, the return to familiar fruit. But like the hazel tree, a miracle sprang from our gloom. The hazel tree, whose fruit grows on a fresh branch, away from the fertilized flower, taught us to look outward. We found new fare. Envy plump. Ambition wet. Jealousy’s veined tang. We ate the eyeballs. Ripe. One from each sister. A left. A right. Bottomless taste. Spiced with greed. We told none of our kind, returned, and took the remaining eye from each sister. A right. A left. We flew to our maiden’s shoulders for rest. We thanked her for stories that end well.