Gretel

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Gretel keeps her head low

And goes about her way,

Does the bidding of the witch;

The mistress of the house,

While Hansel stays up high, locked.

Who warned who?

Who first approached the house?

 

Starved and stranded in the dark,

The gingerbread house shone

Like a beacon through the storm,

Like red-hot coals in a baker’s oven,

And with its heady scents invited:

“Come, come my ducklings!

Come, feast on my honey-sticky sweetness.”

 

Like a caramelised apple

Baba Yaga’s smile shone crisply,

Framed in curtains of cotton candy lace.

Kindly she invited them to her table,

Gave them supper, let them eat their fill,

And in the choices the siblings made

Took measure of their characters.

 

Where Gretel ate slowly and savoured

Each single morsel as the last,

Hansel ever devoured and ever wanted more.

At dusk –at last- they bowed to sleep.

They woke with dawn’s first call;

Hansel in the cage and Gretel in the bed.

 

Household and lessons blur together

For Gretel who learns her mistress’ Craft.

A charm for sweeping apple seeds,

A conjuring of caramel,

Divination with cocoa beans.

And in the evening, the fattening of Hansel

For reasons Gretel dares not dream.

 

But while her brother wiles away the days,

Eating his fill and still presenting bones,

Gretel bides her time and learns.

The witch is, after all, old.

And every night in their corners

The three conspirators

Are turning uneasy in their sleep.

 

The candles begin to burn again

And Baba’s patience is gone.

Her eyes are not what they have been

But children’s plots are easy to divine.

The girls is ready, the boy is ripe.

She orders Gretel to prepare

Her brother for the fire.

 

In silent co-plotting the two children,

For one perfect moment thought as one.

The fire set their ending goal,

Hazing and blazing in the house’s cave dark,

And with a scream that tore the air

The crone they push inside its gaping mouth.

 

Two children did the woodsman have

Two were he lost in the forest.

But, stumbling out of the snow-covered trees,

Only a son did the forest return to him.

For cunning Gretel stayed behind, heir and only child

To Baba Yaga and, in time, a Baba Yaga too,

To raise the storms, to wander in the wilderness,

To judge, to guide, to guard.

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