Things That Cannot Be Eaten, By Jazz Sexton

The first thing to do

was clear out the pearls

and rubies, sapphires, and diamonds

she left behind a decade ago.


Gretel swept the treasures

into piles according to weight.

She sorted them into boxes

and sold them all, keeping a quarter

for herself, donating a quarter to her poor village,

and giving half to Hansel to spend

as he would

because he said he deserved

a share.


She bought paper and pencil,

and crossed the lake

to the house made of bread and cake

on the back of the white duck

that had helped her escape

in childhood.


Rust fell away in chunks

as she pried the oven door

open. Her fingernails turned orange.

She bled.

The crone’s teeth hid in a corner.

They were yellow and black

and curved at the back, becoming smaller

with each tooth, grinning

on their own without the cover

of the crone’s slobbering lips.


She pinched them between

her thumb and forefinger

and set them on the table

at her elbow.

Gretel began her list.


Things that cannot be eaten:

“The desperate chop of a woodcutter’s axe

who is childless, and can only blame himself


A woman’s disdain

for what is not her own


Lies children tell themselves

to believe they are safe

and loved


An old woman’s screams, heat,

and a maiden’s triumph

No matter how sour

a taste it leaves


Resentment

for a forgiven father,

for a fed and fat

brother

Fear a girl knows when life is beyond her control”


She pressed a hand

over the oven door

until blisters threatened her skin.

She wanted to feel

the paper inside

char and curl

into something that didn’t exist.


Gretel buried the teeth

where mud kissed

the house’s crust.


She licked the blue gumdrop doorknob,

and ate her fill of bread.

No one—not a gluttonous witch,

a selfish mother, a spineless father,

or a clever but greedy brother

who never shared even as his sister

became leaner than twigs in February—

would cage her stomach and soul

from satiation.

Jazz Sexton is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh where she is trying to earn a Bachelor's degree in English Fiction Writing and a certificate in Children's Literature without the aid of her fairy godmother, who perished tragically in a head on collision with a unicorn. She blogs about writing and whatever she feels like at http://jazzsexton.blogspot.com/.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love your idea of the aftermath of the folktale, really interesting! :D

whaddayameandoihaveroomfordessert said...

this is awesome.

Andrea Blythe said...

This is a lovely poem.

rwayford said...

Wish I'd have thought up the name Jazz Sexton! I could really make that sell!

Good writing, too. R.Way

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