Then comes Gretel,

such a girl, a swirl

of disheveled hair


and, starving though

she is, sits at my feet,

her eyes soft like fields


of winsome wheat.

She bathes my frayed-

grayed skin, a kindness


I have never known.

I do not see what she sees in me.         

        You must be weary, Mother, all alone in the woods.


Her voice like cherries

glistening on the branch,

she calls me Mother.


The daughter I never had,

who would love me?  

I cannot end her life


now that she’s fatted

as the cow. I suck my tongue…

but I cannot.


Better to say I will not,

nor her brother Hansel,

for that would pain her.


You see, I am changed.

Gretel’s sighs and scent

have kindled the dwindled joy. 


I tread the curse of eternal

life with moldy voice,

a crimped and useless leg


man-hairs on my face.

I see scratch, no lean

when fear is crooked


on a child’s tongue.

How they taunt me, still,

have always tainted my life.


Yes daughter, I am weary

of playing the rogue

in this moon-whipped


forest with no simple joy. 

Picking babies’ bones

from my teeth. So today


I hatched a plan, clever

witch clever as I am, 

I hatched a plan


and told the children 

I must eat them by

the earthly light of dawn,


(it can be no other

way—ahh, wretched curse),

but tonight we will rejoice.  


I will instruct my Gretel 

to warm the fire to cook

the meal and this child, 


her eyes deep with wisdom 

will know when I lean in…

when I lean into the oven  


so very far, she will push…

Sparks will rise through the night

lighting Gretel’s way home.

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