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Kassandra Montag

Hansel and Gretel Get Married

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Suppose Hansel and Gretel were not brother and sister,
but were married. This makes getting lost in the woods
and killing someone much more believable.

Red haired and newlywed—Gretel dressed in white
lace and Hansel in suspenders—they abandon themselves
among the trees, pale limbs flailing. The trees
become men in black suits, with roots for heads.
Fish swim up out of the soil like weeds,
their wet scales glittering in pockets of sunlight,
their fins flapping against air.
These encounters rise out of the bark
like afterthought or dream, after Hansel and Gretel
have made love in the dirt and are asleep.
Gretel's red hair billows behind her like breaths
of fire, but she is no dragon, more a bird with talons.

At the witch's cottage they ask for plums and hunger
bitterly when she offers them tea. She doesn't trick them,
or lock them in her cottage. She sings a lullaby for them
as they edge along the cottage walls, search
for a tapestry woven with gilt thread, the treasure
that enticed them into the forest.

Hansel drops Ambien into her Earl Grey
and Gretel pulls the witch's white hair until her body folds
into the wood burning oven. Gretel shuts its door,
throws in a match, and asks Hansel to pour
a bit of honey into a glass for a golden drink.
Hansel smiles, thinks his wife
never so lovely as when in front of flames,
her face framed by tumbling red curls,
ash and bone crumbling
in small piles behind her.

Fairy Tale for my Unborn Child

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While walking in the river bed behind our house
I discover a village, half hidden in tall grass
that reaches the windows of cottages.
A sign reads: no one in this town is afraid to die.

I hear children's songs; see them lined
in one row wearing their Sunday best,
black trousers on the boys, and navy dresses
on the girls. Blackberries cluster

in backyards and green ferns grow in June.
This is a town with pastries on the baker's windowsill,
set in small boxes tied with yellow ribbon,
and a market where a man butchers chickens,

with the blood right there next to the flower shop,
the daffodils bright and open as children's faces.
The fabric store holds rolls of velvet, chiffon, and brocade, where
dark haired girls manipulate shears and stick pins

into fabric mannequins. Their gray wool dresses darken
their eyes in the November dusk, when closing shop
they bend and blow out the last candle on the windowsill.
Beside a thatch-roofed cottage a plaid tablecloth

is thrown at the roots of a tree, with acorns
piled in the middle and a bucket
of apples at one corner, tipped over,
the apples tumbling and glossy in the sun.

A ladder lies in the green grass and an axe
balances against the trunk with a pair of black
gloves next to the silver blade.
A red leaf has fallen beside my shoe;
it has a startling flame, like the pieces
of stain glass in the cathedral
where the children sing in the yard
among the tombstones and the wrought iron

fences. Each child's voice burns with the same moon,
an open mouth, a wide, untreated wound.


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The ache of the black lily is giving wooden dolls away.
With sequin eyes
I too have found a small house
to shelter in.
This asylum with white walls and a child cot is blank

enough for creation. Its chimney is a throat
with jewels spilling out the mouth into a swirling sky.
Outside my window all of the elms

have fallen on their backs. They do not shriek
like a pestle in the mortar
when there is not enough bone to grind,
but collide softly, like cherries dropped on the cement.

I peer past the bars over my windows
toward the herb garden and forest beyond. Once,
lost in the woods, I came to a witch's hut
and boiled snakes in a net

with her long thin fingers as my own.
Now they appease me with trinkets on my bed,
vomited between fangs:
kernels of corn, a diamond ring, an antique key.
The time is near

when the peasant will marry
more than grain, when I will sow rubies
large as goat heads
from between my thighs.

The palm on my breast belongs to a creature
both an infant and a man,
its yoke now buried
with the ravens and poisoned porridge.
So I haul the shore

up to my neck, and let the tidal wave sink me,
crash in sudden gasps
into my face

kiss me clean.

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