by Stephanie Parent
Who do I love: My breadcrumb brother or my witch mother? The crunch of sugar against my starving Tongue Addles my mind Leaves me unsure of whom To trust The candy house was a trap, the witch said —ugly storybook witch with warts on her nose and boils on her toes— A trap for him, she said She would kill him and cook him and Eat him —loveless witch daughterless witch— The witch did not feed me Cakes and confections Perhaps she feared temptation The sight of my fattening flesh That was not the fate she intended For me As she did for my brother, Hansel I tried to save him I slipped him a bird bone To replace his own finger When the witch’s hands wrapped round it Like claws I told him not to gorge himself Still, I watched him grow wide and heavy and slow Plodding the confines of his cage While I shrunk I wondered, in the world out there Would I always be Small A bird scrounging for crumbs I wondered Would the witch teach me The mysteries of the universe How to fly like those birds perched On the frosted roof of her cottage How to ensnare men And all their appetites I wondered Was the witch’s pockmarked face Her withered limbs Beneath her greasy cloak Just a disguise Was this all a test To see how long I could remain hungry How much I wanted Whether I could be trusted My stepmother had never touched me Never loved me But the witch— Sometimes, when I’d finished my chores She laid a hand gentle as feathers On my bony wrist I studied the witch’s eyes Sometimes, I thought I saw wisdom Deep brown as the bark of an old tree Sometimes, I saw yearning The blue of a wandering stream But in the end, when the witch peered into the cage Where my fat brother lay I saw jealousy and greed The same shade as my stepmother’s eyes I knew neither choice was the right one I knew what I had to do I gathered all my strength The last crumbs of sugar in my veins I pushed the witch’s bony body into the fire And left her for the flames
About the Author
Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC. Her poetry has been nominated for a Rhysling Award and Best of the Net. Visit her on Twitter at @SC_Parent and her website www.stephanieparent.net.