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Gretel, from a Sudden Clearing
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Published: Thu Oct 15 1987
Night reading mode 

Gretel, from a Sudden Clearing

No way back then, you remember, we decided,
but forward, deep into a wood

so darkly green, so deafening with birdsong
I stopped my ears.

And that high chime at night,
was it really the stars, or some music

running inside our heads like a dream?
I think we must have been very tired.

I think it must have been a bad broken off
piece at the start that left us so hungry

we turned back to a path that was gone,
and lost each other, looking.

I called your name over and over again,
and still you did not come.

At night, I was afraid of the black dogs
and often I dreamed you next to me,

but even then, you were always turning
down the thick corridor of trees.

In daylight, every tree became you.
And pretending, I kissed my way through

the forest, until I stopped pretending
and stumbled, finally, here.

Here too, there are step-parents, and bread
rising, and so many other people

you may not find me at first. They speak
your name, when I speak it.

But I remember you before you became
a story. Sometimes, I feel a thorn in my foot

when there is no thorn. They tell me,
not unkindly, that I should imagine nothing here.

But I believe you are still alive.
I want to tell you about the size of the witch

and how beautiful she is. I want to tell you
the kitchen knives only look friendly,

they have a life of their own,
and that you shouldn’t be sorry,

not for the bread we ate and thought
we wasted, not for turning back alone,

and that I remember how our shadows walked
always before us, and how that was a clue,

and how there are other clues
that seem like a dream but are not,

and that every day, I am less
and less afraid.

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