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