Poetry Month 2012. 3: The Disputed History of Hansel and Gretel

After sharing another fairytale poem yesterday, here’s another one, this time by Joanne Limburg whose poem about Fathers I shared last month. This one, about what happened when Hansel and Gretel got home again, is from her collection Paraphernalia.

     The Disputed History of Hansel and Gretel

     …and so they lived happily ever after,
     among their precious stones and pearls.

     The miller’s wife didn’t mean anything
     as she watched them walking to school,
     but she couldn’t help wondering
     why no one else ever found the site.
     ’Did you ever see it?.’ she asked.
     ’That edible house? That oven?’

     The innkeeper had known an old woman
     who lived in the woods,
     a kindly soul, their grandmother.
     He shook his head as they went past.
     ’The little devils,’ he said.
     ’They bumped her off. For the pearls.’

     The pair grew taller.
     The trees cast ever longer shadows.
     Youths shouted after them
     as they went about their work:
     ’Oi Hansel! Show us your grandmother!
     Hey Gretel! Give us a pearl!’

     They kept their heads down
     and never answered back.
     The village became a town.
     Deep inside the forest,
     axes split trunks and skulls.
     Now they had kids of their own.

     Hansel would always insist
     that his only tell them nice things
     when they came home from school.
     ’Be happy,’ he said.
     ’You’re lucky. Luckier than you realise.’

     Gretel wrapped hers up, layer upon layer,
     till their faces disappeared,
     halfway into Spring.
     ’Stay close,’ she said.
     ’It’s dark. Darker than you could know.’

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