The Spell Lifts

Puff of gray smoke, whiff
of evergreen sap, and the terror
is gone. Cookie house collapses

into a story for children, a household tale.
To add a picture, the cage, chimney,
ring of tall trees release their color

and lie down flat on the page.
Common childhood surfaces:
sisters, school, unremarkable

neighborhood, father, mother.
Seven years, Gretel’s memory
kidnapped by her namesake,

and now, without ceremony, here
is her own house again. Her husband
asks no questions. The children

have grown up, moved away,
one, then the other. Every birthday,
she has shipped a homemade cake

to summer camps, dorm rooms,
apartments, tucked in
palm-sized packages of candles.

Hansel, his sister who saved him,
the stepmother, the father, they lose all
characteristics, they fail like wax

figurines melted down for reuse.
In afternoon light, in the ordinary kitchen,
Gretel sees what no one else can:
old burns across the backs of her hand.

Ava Leavell Haymon
from her book Why the House is Made of Gingerbread
Louisiana State University Press, 2010

used with permission of the poet

Comments are closed.